Malaysian Bishops on Independence Day: Celebrate Diversity

On August 31, Malaysians celebrate "Hari Merdeka". The leaders of the Catholic Church publish a message on the meaning of the national holiday. In the social life of the country, the boundaries between ethnic-religious communities are firmly traced and identity policies play an important role. The bishops to Christians: "We are called to build bridges, not walls".

Sep 16, 2019

KAULA LUMPUR: Celebrate the diversity of Malaysia, a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious country.  The Malaysian bishops remind their fellow citizens of the true meaning of the "Hari Merdeka", a national holiday which commemorates the Declaration of Independence (1957) and the formation of Malaysia (1963) on 31 August.  The nine prelates have published a letter warning the nation of "evils, in particular those that are contrasting one community with another and eroding the very fabric of our society".

 "Religious belief - they say - should enrich a nation but sadly, it has often been used as a divisive force. This is a disservice and distortion of the core truth of any religious faith. It is alarming that there are people who get away with saying things that borders on incitement while those who point out the obvious are persecuted".

 "Why has our culture become so divisive?" The bishops ask themselves.  "When leaders and communities spend their time and energy bickering and instilling sentiments of hate and mistrust, one begins to wonder what example do they provide to the next generation? What kind of society are we giving birth to?

 The population of Malaysia is composed of almost 32 million people, more than 60% of them Muslim.  In social life, the boundaries between ethnic-religious communities are firmly traced and identity policies play an important role.  Catholics represent only 4% of the population, but the bishops stress that even their civil commitment becomes fundamental.

 "As Chrstians, our faith is not confined to just praying and doing good deeds. We are called to build bridges, not walls. Whether in politics, race relations, economic crises or disputes among families or local communities, we are challenged to be peacemakers, to find common ground and to engage in respectful dialogue.
The decisions and choices we make as Christians every day must reflect our continuous commitment towards Malaysia, in all its diversity and uniqueness. We all have a role to play in building up our country – and this translates to building strong bonds of unity among the various races and religions while ensuring that fair-play forms the cornerstone of our society".

 "Let us not resort to hurling allegations or casting aspersions against our fellow Malaysians of other races and creed. How often have we resorted to being suspicious and judgmental about others who do not share or practice our faith. We must lead the way to forge greater unity for the sake of our country and not be the instigators who keep tearing at the very fabric of our diversity to break us apart."

The message concludes: " When there are those who make false allegations against us out of fear, let us not react negatively. Through our actions, we can be the beacon of light for others to see Christ through us. Likewise, we must also learn to trust, unite and journey together with our fellow Malaysians as we are one single race and Malaysians first. We are all on the same boat journeying together with Malaysians of every race and religion, facing challenges together. Let us cast our oars in the same direction and continue to plant the seeds of unity, maintain peace and reconcile and build our nation and its people. This is how we bring real meaning to Merdeka and what it means to be Malaysians".--Asia News

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