I’m glad the “People Like us” Open Forum on Friday, June 12, co-organized by Muslims Professionals Forum and Friends-in-Conversation went well. In fact, it was much better than I expected! 🙂 Marina Mahathir was kind enough to give the event extra publicity on her blog which generated some interesting comments. As I saw some of the comments reflecting attitudes which this forum was designed to deal with, for example, I decided to leave my take on it since I was directly engaged in the organization and facilitation of the event.
Friends, the last time I stepped into the Bangsar Mosque for a forum organized by Muslim Professionals Forum at their invitation, I received a warm welcome. They didn’t have to, but the chairman was kind enough to publicly welcome me – a Christian pastor.
Sure, there maybe an initial feeling of awkwardness as I was the only non-Muslim (as far as I know) there. But my Muslims friends put me at ease. And I found the interaction enriching.
The back story for the organization for this particular open forum tonight was initiated by Muslim Professionals Forum, and Friends-in-Conversation (the Christian group I’m part of) felt this will be a good grassroots effort for us to work together.
So, as one of the organizers, I’m not worried about shouters or stone throwers. Based on what I know, we’re going to have some curry puff and drinks for those coming early 🙂 We’re having a conversation among friends not a grand debate.
Frankly, I think it’s time for us to drop such generalizations of people whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindus, atheist, or whatever. Each person is different. and in all faith communities there’s a wide spectrum on how we express our faith.
For me, tonight we’re in conversation with friends who believe we must not surrender this important space for us to engage to the so called "experts" or "activists" (whom both may not really speak for any of our communities). So often, we are clouded by the issues and forget the human being before us.
On arrogance, the Bible does clearly say, we are all sinners. So that will keep us all humble and ready to seek for repentance and after that work on better ways to relate.
And one thing for sure, we can’t just relate from a distance on the web. Face to face encounters where it’s based on mutual respect and trust, and friendship is a good place to start. A safe place.
I’ve long decided that if I don’t want to be part of the problem, then I want to do every bit I can to be part of the solution.
anyone else want to join?
My friend Aloysius Pinto started the ball rolling with a written response which he sent to me after the event and now published online. I only need to correct some details because on paper those who came, registered and left their contact information were 103 people in total! But Aloysius was absolutely right in observing that it was a beautifully mixed crowd. Below is what he wrote, in the next post I’m happy to share from two younger voices, one Christian, and the other Muslim. Until then, read on. 🙂
Last night at the BANGSAR LUTHERAN CHURCH, a very ground-breaking event took place. 2 Muslims – 1 from Australia and 1 from Malaysia; had a conversation with a Malaysian Christian young lady of their experience in a Pluralistic Malaysian society. A Christian Pastor was the host and facilitator.
By Aloysius Francis Pinto
There were about 80 people there from various ethnic backgrounds including foreigners who reside in Malaysia. What was very encouraging was that there were more than half of the attendees who are Malaysian Muslims. Through the conversations by these four persons, something interesting struck me!
It dawned on me that what is really happening is that there is a real battle heating up. The battle is not among races and religious groups, but between the Believers of TRUTH and the manipulation by PERCEPTION. Believer of all faiths have so much in common, and this event clearly showed the vast similarities.
Believers of various FAITHS must continue to engage with each other, not only in forums and formal events, but more so in our daily lives.
The manipulators of PERCEPTION are the irresponsible businesses who are supported and linked to politicians and aided by the vast array of COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES. The political masters use the media to create tension among various races. Supported by big businesses, they have been very successful in promoting the agenda to divide and rule.
Unless Believers of the various Faiths engage with one another, within persons of the same faith and believers of other faiths, the divide and rule by the political-business forces will continue to divide people. Malaysians in general do not practice genuine dialogue among themselves. Malaysians who have limited exposure in living and experiences in different societies, locally or internationally, tend to have a jaundiced way of viewing others. Malaysians who are well exposed to different societies and have experiences and good relationships with other communities seem more open to the "dialogue of life".
DIALOGUE OF LIFE is consciously being away from one’s internal motivations, values and belief systems while engaging with others. This is so readily available in our daily living. The challenge is to be aware that an encounter with another human being is an opportunity for this DIALOGUE OF LIFE. Recognising that ALL MEN & WOMEN ARE BROTHERS & SISTERS of the ONE GOD/SUPREME BEING is a very important starting point. Except for the colour of our skin. We are same. We all have flesh, bones, and blood. We all breathe the same air, drink water from the same source, receive sunlight from the same source. We have similar aspirations for our future and the future of our children. We have the same challenges and anxieties in a world full of conflicts, climate change and health issues.
The event last night gave so much encouragement to those of us who still believe that Malaysia is a beautiful country with many beautiful people. Leaders in society must create spaces for interaction like this to happen. It doesn’t have to be a forum or indoor activity. We have so many activities, like Festivities and Celebrations. Sporting and Social events. Work environment is one of the best opportunities for the Dialogue of Life. Having the same corporate goals and the opportunity to interact, we just need to remind ourselves that we must be guided by our internal values and belief systems.
In this globalised world where Corporate Governance, Accountability and Transparency are normal benchmarks for performance, it is our values and belief systems that help us to implement these BEST PRACTICES. The trick is to be consciously aware at all times of our internal values and belief systems.
We need to take large chunks of time to remove ourselves from the busy-ness of our daily lives and spend time in INTROSPECTION/REFLECTION.
QUIET-TIME. This is so critical, for Believers we know that the answers to our Life Journey resides within us. Unless we spend time for REFLECTION/INTROSPECTION, we can get carried away with becoming Fire-Fighters in our lives and live by default. The political-business community would be glad we have become too busy to reflect and measure ourselves with our internal benchmarks. WE MUST RE-DISCOVER THE TRUTH AND NOT LIVE BY THE PERCEPTIONS CREATED BY OTHERS!
One Truth we must all strive for is that we need each other. All of us belong to the HUMAN RACE. We must learn to spend time for reflection. At times, these moments of reflection will give insights to our daily DIALOGUE IN LIFE.
Beyond personal reflection and introspection, we must learn to engage others. Being good listeners will help make Life’s Journey more meaningful. Sharing our challenges and concerns with one another brings us closer and help bond our relationships.
My prayer and hope is that last night’s event will spur more such encounters among the various peoples of Malaysia and others.
THERE IS HOPE & WE MUST ACT!
(Thanks to Ben Ong for the excellent photos!)