(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): DAP
welcomes the Cabinet endorsement of the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir
Mohamad’s visit to the Vatican to meet Pope Paul John II on June 7, although
this is a foregone conclusion once Mahathir had announced on Sunday that he had
accepted the Pope’s invitation
The Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to the
Vatican should be seen in the proper perspective. It is not an epochal global event
in the relationship between Islam and Christianity as UMNO Youth claims, for in
his 24 years as the Roman Pontiff, Paul John II had given the highest priority
to the promotion of Catholic-Islamic dialogue, meeting with the highest
religious Islamic authorities and visiting many Islamic countries.
In May last year, Pope Paul John II created
religious history when he entered the 8th century A.D. Umayyad Mosque
in Damascus and became the first
leader of the Catholic Church to set foot inside a mosque and again created
history when he took part in another “first” where Muslims and Christians
prayed together in an organized way, with the Pope leading Christian prayers
while the Muslim part of the ceremony was conducted
by the Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmed Kataro.
In the now-famous three Assisi gatherings of the
world’s religious leaders convoked by the Pope at the birthplace of St.
Francis since 1986, the most recent one to pray for peace on January
24 this year was focused on fostering Islam-Christianity understanding
and dialogue in the aftermath of September 11.
would be wrong, however, to view Mahathir’s meeting with the Pope purely as a
Muslim-Christian meeting as Malaysia is the home of all the great religions in the world.
Mahathir’s meeting with the Pope is not an epochal global event, the meeting
of the Malaysian Prime Minister and the Pope
is undoubtedly an important
and even momentous development for
hoped that the Prime Minister’s visit will lead to the restoration of official
support for inter-religious dialogue and the re-establishment of an
inter-religious council, as the government had withdrawn support for an
inter-religious council for over two decades – when in the first two decades
of nationhood, official blessing and recognition was accorded to the operations
of an inter-religious council headed by a Cabinet Minister.
is an important role for an inter-religious council in multi-religious Malaysia,
not only to promote inter-religious co-existence, tolerance and understanding in
addressing the many outstanding grievances of the various religious groups in
the country but also to foster a joint commitment by all faiths to peace,
justice, equitable development, democracy, human rights, good governance and
honesty in private and public life.