KUALA LUMPUR: A better understanding of each others' religion can help foster unity, say several religious leaders at a Rukun Negara forum on Sunday (Sept 20).
"I hope we can change our views, as religion can unite the people and nation," said Christian Federation of Malaysian chairman Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim.
"All religion teaches the betterment of society, but at times, problems arise due to interpretation.
"Conflict arises when individuals or group fails to better understand the religious practices of others," he said at the forum.
He added that understanding the religious practices of one's neighbour could help avoid tension while fostering unity.
"What is important is that we can practice our respective religions while respecting others," he said, citing the forum as an example where religious leaders are able to sit down and discuss matters rationally.
Malaysia Hindu Sangam assistant secretary Gowri PS Thangaya said that the principle of belief in God should not merely be recited as part of the Rukun Negara.
"It must be inculcated in the lives of Malaysians at a tender age, and it should begin not in the schools but at home," she said, adding that this responsibility should be shouldered by all Malaysians.
Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said there may be disagreement in each other's beliefs, but it is important to have respect for one another's religion.
"In the national context, there must the space for one to practice his or her own religion," he said.
Buddhist Association of Malaysia charity and welfare department head Ven. Sing Kan reminded Malaysians to avoid using divisive words or resorting to hate speeches and lies where religion in concerned.
"We must develop the right speech, which is constructive and beneficial towards unity," he said.
Earlier, in his speech when opening the forum, Federal Territories Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Dr Edmund Santhara said Malaysians should understand their own religion and that of others.
"This will bring better understanding and respect among the communities, resulting in stronger unity," he said.
He cited efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 as an example where Malaysians had united to and adhered to the government's rules with open hearts, despite restrictions imposed on gatherings at houses of worship.
The Rukun Negara was instituted by royal proclamation on Merdeka Day, 1970, as a means to foster unity among the races in the country, following the wake of the May 13,1969 racial riots.
Several programmes and events are being held to mark the occasion this year.
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