Sunday, December 6, 2009

Malaysian Muslims and Catholics meet

Since today is Sunday, a holy day for Christians, let me share with you this encouraging news which I obtained from The Herald, the Catholic newspaper.

Parishioners of the Church of the Divine Mercy (CDM) had a three-hour dialogue session with their Wakil Rakyat Oct 2, at St Faustina Hall in Wisma Divine Mercy.

Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) Member of Parliament (MP) for Shah Alam, Khalid Abdul Samad received a rousing welcome when he walked into the hall with several of his PAS members for the follow-up dialogue session. This is the second visit of YB Khalid to CDM. The first was on Mar 27, 2008.

Making their first time appearance to CDM were MP Ampang, Zuraida Kamarudin from PKR, YB Hannah Yeoh the Selangor DAP State Assemblyman for Subang Jaya and Peter Chong the Private Secretary to MP Subang. They too received a warm welcome by CDM parish priest, Fr Paulino Miranda and his parishioners.

Fr Paulino opened the session with a prayer. The assembly observed a moment of silence to pray for the victims of natural disasters in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“We come here as a community to pray for our political leaders — the good and not good ones. May God’s grace fall upon the not-so-good so that there will be a change of good governance,” said Fr Paulino. He hoped the dialogue session with Wakil Rakyat would be fruitful.

Mary Magdaline Pereira, the head of the parish Justice & Peace Committee (JPC) was the moderator. In her opening remarks she said this session is a follow-up after a year and a-half ago, after the General Elections where MP Khalid Samad visited CDM to meet and thank the parishioners. She said JPC under the PIHD mooted the idea to have a follow-up session with these political leaders- PKR/PAS/DAP — to see if they have kept up their commitments.

Jason Ho, PPC of CDM gave a brief summary of the issues raised at the last meeting with YB Khalid, namely in relation to permission to put up a cross on the church roof, road signage to direct people to CDM, lack of public transport to CDM. Other issues raised were related to local issues relating to green lungs, land development, apostasy, usage of ‘Allah’ and freedom of religion.

Ho said some parishioners do not have their own transport especially those living in U5 and Sri Muda and they find it difficult to come to CDM for worship.

There are no bus stands in the Glenmarie Industrial Estate and many visitors especially from other parishes find it difficult to locate where the CDM is, as the church building looks exactly like a factory and there are no signages to indicate that there is a church nearby.

YB Yeoh thanked the church for inviting her and said she is one of the four Assemblymen who sit in the Non- Muslim Affairs Department who meet every two months before making recommendations to the state Exco. Her role is limited at the state level though many issues raised touched on Federal policies. Her personal stand is that she agreed that we should be free to display the cross sign on the church building. She will raise the issue in the state assembly. However, she said that the road signages is under the jurisdiction of JKR.

Another issue is that it took the CDM some 26 years to see reality, yet the conversion of the land from industrial land has yet to be done due to several issues yet to be resolved. YB Yeoh suggested the conversion of usage of premises and asked that an application be put to the local council, although the building has been operating as church for some time.

She gave an input about the problems faced in Selangor, lack of land for religious worship. She added that the state government has earmarked 70 plots of land for religious worship since March 8, 2008 and have not torn down any house of worship, except one temple in Ampang due to misunderstanding. But they have been given a new land to rebuild. She also gave an overview on how to make the application for land for worship purposes.

YB Yeoh explained that the state government has given a RM4 million grant each to Tamil, Chinese schools and Sekolah Agama in Selangor. She said state level Exco and backbenchers are united, having a good relationship as they have a very diplomatic Menteri Besar. She also gave her personal views that people should be free to choose whatever religion they want and said we should fight for our rights through the proper channel, not through violence.

As for lack of public transport, she said it comes under the purview of the Ministry of Transport.

The next speaker was YB Chong who gave an input on behalf of MP Subang, YB Sivarasa who is overseas. Chong touched on several issues like lack of freedom of press saying they are definitely ‘controlled’. He said there is a lot of unity on the ground, among the people. He and YB Sivarasa went to visit three different mosques during Ramadan and received good reception from the Muslims there.

He said PAS sponsored and paid for Bukit Gasing Raya/Tunglung and Hungry Ghost festivals. “We are fed with lies and lies to put fear in us about disunity.” He also praised Fr Paulino for standing up for the truth at the anti- ISA vigil. He said he also attends the Petaling District monthly meeting and council and will follow up with YB Yeoh on the cross issue. Chong who is a practising Christian urged all to stand up for people who have lost their rights, and be courageous. He suggested that we should go back to our Bible and read and get inspiration and strength.

One parishioner questioned why it was taking so long for the cross and signboard; another parishioner from Subang Jaya complained about the Subang Ria Park green lung.

Fr Paulino clarified saying the problem is not with MPSA but with JKR, as the signage or directional road signs issue is ‘stuck’ there. The application for the cross has not yet been made as they are waiting for approval for the signboards first.

YB Zuraida, Head of the Women Wing of PKR said it won’t make her less Muslim by coming to the church. She said she knows how to carry herself. A real Muslim is one who values the universal values of life — to be trustworthy and honest — is the basis of Islamic teachings. It doesn’t make a Malay, Chinese or Indian different as everyone comes from Adam. She stated that the teaching of Islam in Malaysia is not wholesome.

YB Zuraida said that a Church is a church and crosses should be allowed. “We need to respect each other’s religions, and others by virtue of our good deeds and values.” She also said that there shouldn’t be any problem on the road signage that the CDM wants to put up.

YB Yeoh who is only 29, said she promised to remain clean, the stand she upholds. She said, if you want clean leaders, as people now demanded competency and service, it will take time. She said OKU now has free public carparks across Selangor which she championed.

YB Chong said CDM sits on the border of Shah Alam and Subang Jaya, and the parishioners are asked to know their local councillors and give them a week for problems to be resolved once a report has been made; otherwise write to their MPs or Assemblymen as KPI has now been implemented in MPSA.

He said all should be participative by submitting questions they want to ask in Parliament through their MPs. They can pass them to YB Sivarasa or YB Zuraida, etc as the MPs will take up the matter there.

YB Zuraida concluded by explaining the tudung issue.

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