Cancellation of Building Bridges Global Interfaith Seminar

Some of us were really looking forward to see this seminar take place but it didn’t. I just got another news from The Straits Times (you need to subscribe) which gives a different picture where it says:

A little blurb shows…

Muslim-Christian conference called off after KL seeks postponement
KUALA LUMPUR – A PROPOSED conference between Muslim and Christian scholars, which was to have been held here this week, has been cancelled at short notice. The office of Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury nixed it after the Malaysian government asked for a postponement three weeks ago because it had concerns “

The full report has the following:

A source close to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi dismissed the Times report. He said the Premier was not only open to dialogue but had also addressed the 2004 meeting of the World Council of Churches held in Malaysia.

The Times had speculated that the cancellation could be due to sensitivities, citing unnamed ‘influential Muslims’ who questioned the core of Christianity and frowned on inter-religious dialogue.”.

After all is said and done, it’s still sad it didn’t happen in Malaysia 🙁 Here’s the press release from the council of churches of Malaysia.

 

MAJLIS GEREJA-GEREJA MALAYSIA

COUNCIL OF CHURCHES OF MALAYSIA

26 Jalan University, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Tel: 03-79567092/79551587 Fax: 03-79560353 E-Mail: cchurchm@streamyx.com

 

Press statement

Cancellation of Building Bridges Global Interfaith Seminar


The Council of Churches of Malaysia is as much confused as the organisers of the London office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as to the sudden withdrawal of the endorsement and support by the Malaysian authorities for holding the Building Bridges seminar in Kuala Lumpur, from 7-11 May 2007.


The Conference was to coincide with the first visit of the Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, to the Anglican Church of Malaysia.


At the stage of initial preparations, begun a year ago, representatives of the Archbishop’s office for Interfaith Relations received a warm reception from the Prime Minister’s Office and other Islamic institutions, welcoming such a seminar as consistent with the government’s emphasis on encouraging civilizational and interfaith dialogue to foster and build mutual respect and understanding between the world’s religions.


To this end, the London office received a formal letter welcoming such a seminar which would have brought together over thirty world renowned Islamic and Christian scholars and theologians to deliberate under the theme; “Humanity in Context: Christian and Muslim perspectives on being human”.

The Building Bridges Seminar would have been the sixth held in a series since six years ago. Such seminars were held in London, New York, Qatar and Sarajevo and the papers from the seminars have been published.


The organisers were excited at the prospect of meeting in Malaysia, as the context would provide the international scholars exposure to the achievements of Malaysia in encouraging interfaith dialogue at the national and international levels. Malaysia could have offer itself as a model of harmonious living between different cultures and religions.

The Council of Churches and other Islamic institutions were approached in the initial stages to host mini seminars to which Muslim and Christian participants could interact with local people of the deliberations of the seminar.

 

But for unknown reasons the organisers received formal word from the authorities here that support has been withdrawn. This came barely three weeks before the scheduled dates. In respect to the government, the organisers felt it wise to cancel the seminar.

 

The Council of Churches is at a lost as to the reasons why the authorities have withdrawn support at such a late stage.


The Council of Churches had hoped that such a seminar would have gone a long way in pursuing the path of respectful dialogue and strengthens our country’s claim to be a viable venue to host such global interfaith dialogues.


In the light of this development, the Council of Churches most sincerely and humbly appeals to the government to review its decision and offer the organisers an alternative date when the said seminar could be held in Malaysia.

 

The Council of Churches reaffirms its commitment to building peace through interfaith dialogue. The Council will continue to support the Prime Minister’s vision and efforts to nurture and strengthen Malaysia as a model nation of harmonious living between cultures and religions.


Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri
The General Secretary
Of the Council of Churches of Malaysia.
10th May 2007

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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