KUALA LUMPUR: A better understanding of each other’s religions can help foster unity, say several religious leaders.
“I hope we can change our views, as religions can unite the nation and its people, ” said Christian Federation of Malaysian chairman Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim.
“All religions teach the betterment of society, but at times problems arise due to interpretation.
“Conflicts arise when individuals or groups fail to better understand the religious practices of others, ” he said at a Rukun Negara forum yesterday.
He said that understanding the religious practices of one’s neighbours could help avoid tensions.
“What is important is that we can practise our respective religions while respecting others, ” he said, citing the forum as an example where religious leaders were able to sit together and discuss matters rationally.
Malaysia Hindu Sangam assistant secretary Gowri PS Thangaya said the first 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 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 might be disagreement in each other’s beliefs, but it was important to have respect for one another’s religion.
“In the national context, there must be space for one to practise 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 was concerned.
“We must develop the right speech, which is constructive and beneficial in inculcating 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 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 Aug 31,1970, as a means to foster unity among the races, in the wake of the May 13,1969 racial riots.
Several programmes and events are being held to mark the occasion this year.