Written by Abhilashah P. Thiagarajah and Varshini Vijayakumar
On Saturday the 21st of April, Sekretariat Rukun Negara (SRN) hosted an event called Harmony Dialogue with the goal of promoting racial unity among students and the public community. The event sparked a lot of interest among the community and around 400 people attended the event. This number included students from various schools in Malaysia, VIPs, the public and of course Sunway students. There were five speakers who spoke about their religions: Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. They spoke about their different faiths and how the main goal of each religion is to ensure peaceful co-existence.
The first question posed to the speakers by the moderator Prof. Yeah Kim was to describe how each of their religions exhibit and display peaceful existence and unity.
Mr Shah (Islam speaker) started his speech by saying “Assalam Mualaikum” which directly translates to “May peace and blessings be upon you”. He said that Islam was derived from the terms Salam Aslama and Salimat which means the willingness to surrender to god in an authentic way to achieve peace and harmony. He also stated that according to the Quran, Islamic teachings place great importance in not condemning other religions and speaking to everyone with respect regardless of their religion or beliefs.
Mr Wong (Buddhist speaker) replied by stating that a guideline to achieve unity is to be at peace with one’s body, speech and mind.
Reverend Dr Herman (Christian speaker) began his speech by asking how many people from the audience are religious. To which only a small fraction of the audience raised their hands. He then defined unity as “peaceful coexistence”. With regards to unity in Christianity, he stated that unity derives from loving God and loving thy neighbour. He also went on to say that though we all long for unity, we seldom achieve it. This is because there are factors that affect peaceful coexistence and one of those factors is religion. He stated that in Christianity itself, we are divided into so many churches with different interpretations though Christianity is quite concrete down to the core.
Dr Charanjit (Sikhism speaker) enlightened the audience by reciting a verse from the Guru Granth Sahib relating to unity. She said, “All beings and creatures are his and he belongs to all”. She also stated that Sikhs believe that we all belong to a divine origin and are essentially one.
Lastly, Mr Thurairaj (Hinduism speaker) began his speech with a Hindu chant….” Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu” which means let the results of my good thoughts and prayers be enjoyed by all creatures. He said this one saying itself represents unity in Hinduism. He went on to say that Hinduism was never meant to be a religion and was rather a way of life. The term Hindu was in fact coined by the West with reference to the people living by the Indus river. Therefore, Hindustan refers to the “land of the Hindus”. Just as Afghanistan would mean the “land of the Pashtuns” and Pakistan the “land of the pure”.
In the first part of the event, it was evident that each religion in their own way conveyed and expressed the importance of unity.
Another interesting question posed by the moderator was “Why is religion important?”
Revered Dr Herman replied stating that religion is important for only one reason. That is, it speaks of the highest ideals, it makes high demands and therefore purports that human beings can live in peace together. The danger of religion however he said was that it can promote prejudice. As a result, we as humans fall short.
Mr Wong replied by said that “food is important when one is hungry, water is important when one is thirsty and of course the toilet is of importance when one is feeling pressure”. The audience roared sniggered to his response. He went on to say that if you are on good terms with yourself, family, body and other matters, religion becomes less important.
The talk continued with questions ranging from effective ways to promote religion to the younger generation to ways to promote religious tolerance and understanding and what the world would be like without religion. The event was then concluded with a gifting ceremony and lunch. All in all, the talk certainly did give the audience an immense amount of knowledge and great insight into the beliefs and ideologies of the various religions represented. It was also a great representation of Malaysia’s wonderful diversity in terms various religions, cultures and ethnicities. Something we Malaysians should continue to embrace and cherish…….