KOTA KINABALU – Sabah, recognized as a model state for religious and racial harmony, was given the honour to host the program for World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014, which was recently celebrated in Kota Kinabalu Feb 7-9.
It is jointly organized by the Committee to Promote Understanding & Harmony among Religious Adherents (JKMPKA) and the National Integration and Unity Department (JPNIN).
This 3-day program began with a courtesy call to the Honourable Sabah Chief Minister by the organizing committee and leaders of the various religious bodies in the State in the afternoon of Feb 7. The Chief Minister concurred, “We, in Sabah, never had problems with religious issues. We live in a society whereby inter-marriages are common, visiting each other’s open houses during festivities is a norm, and to sit and drink together is part of our daily lives.”
A youth forum was held in the evening at the Federal Complex Auditorium, Jalan Sulaman. Panellists, made up of young leaders from various religious bodies, shared their views to a fully-packed auditorium on how young people could play a part in promoting and protecting understanding and harmony among the various faiths. Pastor Fedlin bin Kukut from Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Church, representing the Christian Churches in the panel, shared his 15 years’ experience of pastoring young people.
The second day’s program began early with a Travelogue and Harmony Walk, whereby approximately 400 people comprising organizers, religious bodies and various youth groups visited the Sikh Temple, the Buddhist Temple, the Catholic Church, the Hindu Temple, and ending at the Mosque within the vicinity of Sembulan, Penampang and Bukit Padang.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, State Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister, Datuk Jainab Ahmad, together with the heads and members of JKMPKA & JPNIN, religious leaders comprising of imams, buddhist monks, priests and pastors and people of various faiths took part in the “Walk”, with the aim of creating a greater understanding and an openness to a basic knowledge of the role of mosques, churches, and temples.
Archbishop John Wong from the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, flanked by Bishop Datuk Dr Thomas Tsen from the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia, also the President of Sabah Council of Churches (SCC) and Pastor Wilson Ho, Secretary General of SCC, welcomed the participants who had gathered at the Catholic Church of Mary Immaculate Bukit Padang for the commencement of the “Walk”.
Bishop Tsen gave a brief introduction on the Christian population in Sabah, followed by the signing of a commemorative plaque of the event by Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, who then presented it to Archbishop Wong.
In the afternoon, 50 participants made up of organizers and representatives of the various faiths took part in the Unity Bowling, which was held at CPS Bowling Alley, Centre Point, Kota Kinabalu. Leaders of the various faiths came together for some fun and fellowship. Neil Mah, from the Catholic Church, represented the Christian Churches in this event.
In the evening, Sabah State Government hosted a Unity Dinner at Le Meridien Hotel, attended by the organizers and various religious bodies and groups.
The third day was filled with more unity programs for the national service trainees.
World Interfaith Harmony Week was a brainchild of King Abdullah II of Jordan, which was mooted in 2010. It was aimed at getting countries throughout the world to organize Unity and Harmony programs in the first week of February annually with the hope of bringing greater understanding and harmony amongst people from various religions, thus lessening religious conflicts and wars in the world. The theme chosen for this universal program is “Love God, Love Your Neighbours”.
Malaysia responded to this noble call and organized this program for two years starting in 2011. In 2012, Malaysia was honoured as the third best country in the world in organizing this program, after Nigeria and Mindanao.
This year’s program is the third time Malaysia is involved in organizing it, with full support from the Federal Government. – Neil Mah