United We Stand for Justice and Peace

IMG 0108PETALING JAYA: The fourth annual Day of Solidarity, themed Pilgrimage towards Justice and Peace, was held on Sunday, March 25 at the Council of Churches Malaysia Ecumenical Centre.

The gathering, which was initiated by the Conference of Religious Major Superiors (Roman Catholic church) and the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) following flight MH 370’s disappearance, was to stand up for common Christians values as children of God.

Franciscan Friar John Wong, who represents the Conference of Religious Major Superiors for Malaysia Singapore and Brunei said, “We have a role to be prophetic about the Good News which is common to all humanity – human dignity, integrity, relationship that we are brothers and sisters and called to live together in peace and harmony. We are called to speak up for truth, courageously.”

“These events have helped the different churches come together, looking beyond the realities that divide us. We have also grown in terms of relationship and commitments to one another and in welcoming friends from other faiths,” said Friar John.

Going beyond borders and traditions, he said this year’s theme is an ongoing journey towards healing, towards a greater expression of how we live out our faith and towards the presence of God in the here and now.

The session began with Taize mediation (a style of Christian worship with repetitive singing of simple harmonised tunes) and a short video message from the prior of the French Taizé Community, Brother Alois.

Bro Alois said, “Solidarity is linked intimately with our faith in Jesus Christ. As Christians, we are called to sow and discover seeds of hope, where ever we are ... with the hope that Christ doesn’t abandon anybody.”

IMG 0133“As we work towards the expansion of the kingdom of God, there must also joy in our heart of common humanity.”

The congregation was invited to join any of the four breakout sessions on Human Trafficking by Global Shepherds, Migrant Workers by Tenaganita, Environmental Issue by Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Pahang community leader Fatimah Bah Sin and Youth Perspective Towards Justice and Peace by lawyer Syahredzan Johan, to learn and be better equipped about the plights of our fellow brethren.

Each topic saw a fairly even number of attendees as its speakers passionately shared on their respective subjects.

After a short break, a panel of speakers made up of Bukit Bendera, Penang MP Zairil Khir Johari, Selangor State Assembly speaker Hannah Yeoh, Sungai Burung, Penang UMNO member Shamil Norshidi and three-time winner of the Asian British Parliamentary (ABP) Debating Championship’s Asia Best Speaker award and Youth Chief of the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu) Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman presented their take on Malaysia’s pilgrimage towards justice and peace.

The discussion was moderated by Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) Jerald Joseph.

The youngest keynote speaker, Syed Saddiq said, his vision of Malaysia for the next 10 years, despite the growing apathy in the wake of pessimism, is optimistic, based on what the young have achieved thus far.

“Change doesn’t happen instantly and it happens when you least expect it,” said Syed.

He believes people’s loyalties to parties and individuals have reduced. They are more aware and conscious of their rights, which will help them, move forward.

Syed said, “No matter who governs the nation, the power must return to the people and they will, in turn determine the country’s progress, like never before.”

Shamil spoke on the bleakness of mankind’s future based on our current practises, which leads to the state of the environment. Scientists are saying that we are entering the sixth stage of extinction for life on earth.

He said, 50 per cent of the species that walk the earth today will be extinct in the next 70 years. There is no guarantee mankind will make it either as 99 per cent of species are already extinct.

Temperatures are rising and things are melting. There is 90 per cent more CO2 in the atmosphere and 120 per cent more methane gas.

Sea waters are rising and the atmosphere is absorbing seven per cent more precipitation from the ground, which leads to 10 per cent less yield from farmers every year and eventually, unemployment for the farmers.

IMG 0158The moderator summed it up as, in order to tackle these gruesome environmental issues, a system needs to be in place and if the focus is still on sorting out justice and peace in the country, mankind may soon be extinct.

Yeoh talked about looking at the bigger picture versus drowning in feeling hopeless just because that is what friends say.

“I am hopeful because there are still a lot of good people working the ground and there will be breaking point for the situation we are in today,” said Yeoh.

She also believes the implementation of checks and balances in a political party to ensure accountability and transparency, regardless of who is in power, to achieve success.

Zairil discussed hijrah in the religious and existential sense where it means, not just a physical journey but a continuous path to better one’s self. In that context, he also brought up how our forefathers travelled around the region yet, in several Malay literary manuscripts, including the Hikayat Hang Tuah and Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, the phrase ‘Orang Asing’ was never used.

He said the term used to describe migrants was orang dagang. They were not merchants, who were called saudagar, but travellers who, having settled in a new territory, assimilate themselves by contributing to the betterment of that society.

“The ancient Malay world was a very inclusive one, a far cry from the narrow and shallow narratives that prevail in our country today,” said Zairil.

“Migrants were welcomed and accepted as long as they contributed to society. The only people considered to be outsiders were those who were aggressive, invaders and people who sort to impose foreign values at gunpoint`.”

IMG 0163“Whatever our roots, be in indigenous ancestries or decedents from migrant travellers, we are all Malaysian,” said Zairil

Council of Churches of Malaysia General Secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri said he selected the four young speakers to fall in line with the day’s sub theme “Young men shall see visions, old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 10.17)

“The old nurtured and cultivated the nation into a harmonious and peaceful one and now we see the young and their vision as Malaysia moves into a challenging period," said Rev Shastri.

“Today’s aim was to show, although we come from different faiths, we must all come together as our destiny is one," he added.

Archbishop Julian Leow said the closing prayer and the covenanting pledge was read followed by the audience lighting candles. – By Gwen Manickam