Vesak Day and other religious festivities should be occasions for Malaysians to strengthen multi-religious Malaysia’s credentials to be a bridge between religions and civilizations to promote international peace and understanding
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): Vesak Day and other religious festivities should be occasions for Malaysians to strengthen multi-religious Malaysia’s credentials to be a bridge between religions and civilizations as an unique contribution to international peace and understanding.
During his recent visit to Malaysia, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Malaysia is a good bridge between the world’s civilizations because it is one country where people from various religions have been co-existing harmoniously.
It is most unfortunate that Malaysia had not played any significant role in the Year of Dialogue Among Civilisations in 2001 as designated by the United Nations General Assembly despite public reminders by the DAP. In May 2000, for instance, I had said that Malaysia could be the microcosm for an inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogue “to set an example of a political system where diverse races, religions and cultures can build a political architecture where there is justice, freedom, democracy, good governance in an environment of religious and cultural tolerance and pluralism”.
Speaking at a Perkim dinner last Friday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said Muslim missionary activities should be extended to non-Muslims to give them a better understanding of true Islam
He said: "We don't require the non-Muslims to embrace the religion, but we want to ease their fears because there is a lot of misunderstanding that Islam promotes violence and terror. We don't want to be enemies of non-Muslims. There is no harm in having good relations with them."
If Malaysia is to play a strategic global role as a bridge between religions and civilizations to promote international peace and understanding, there should be a concerted effort for Malaysians, whether Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus or Sikhs to understand the true teachings of other religions.
As a first step, a Malaysian Inter-Religious Council should be formed by an Act of Parliament to promote inter-religious understanding in schools, universities and all spheres of public life so that Malaysia can be a bridge between religions and civilizations in the global arena to promote international peace and understanding.
The 2003 Vesak Day will be most significant if the seeds for such an international mission for Malaysia, as the bridge of religions and civilizations on the global plane, could be firmly planted in the Malaysian soil.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman