Conversations with Dina Zaman


I remember our conversations vividly.  Dina is such an energetic person so our time together at Starbucks passed quickly. Yesterday morning I was delightfully surprised over coffee at home (much cheaper!) that bits of our conversation made it into her article for the Malaysian Insider. What was memorable was that it wasn’t just a one way street interview kind of experience, it was extremely conversational, and I found myself reflecting through Dina’s own observations on the topics of mutual concern we had over life, faith, religion, politics, and even academics!

Anyway, the mark of a good writer is how they pick out what was the most essential and insightful to weave it into their overall focus of their final piece.  I think Dina lifted out of the treasure chest of words in our conversations the essence which motivates me personally to do what I do.

Here’s the excerpt on my segment, but read the whole piece for other conversations for the wider context and other conversations.

Pastor Sivin Kit is not an unknown name among Christians and Malaysians who engage in inter-faith discussions. I had heard his name before, bandied about among cultural activists, and we made contact on Twitter. His tweets on his thesis, congregation and family exhibit calm and a lot of love.

We finally met at Starbucks. To talk about our country, our faiths, our people.  A one-hour conversation over hot chocolate and a latte would not solve anything, but I wanted to know what he thought. From the cows’ head incident to Perkasa. what would a non-Muslim who would be considered a second-class citizen in the eyes of many think of Malaysia 2010?

“We do not know the real conversations outside, there must be more discussions on the ground,” Sivin said. “The good thing about such efforts is that there are people who want to engage, and to get to . the Malay heartland, we need to create a conversation with the imams, the penghulus. I do not want to assume that they, too, are not thinking about it.”

It was difficult to predict if Malaysia would “improve”, said Sivin, who added Malaysians needed to ask whether these debates were a fad. His thesis on Malaysian churches and social-political engagement was his own personal exploration of our motivations – what drove us to be who we are now?

“Our understanding of God should affect how we live with each other. If you take away hope, what do you have?”

A friend replied in an email to me with this observation, “It reads as if her article started off with a lot of hope after her conversation with Sivin.. then by the end after the various encounters, she almost sounds resigned and plaintiff.” What do you think?

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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