LONDON: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Hj Aman said there is no room for religious or racial bigotry in Malaysia.
“We, in Sabah do not want any display of religious intolerance in this harmonious state of ours,” he said after witnessing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony between University College Yayasan and Salford University, Sheffield College and City of Oxford College at the Malaysian High Commission in London on Wednesday.
Musa was commenting on the issue of protesters demanding the removal of a cross from a neighborhood church in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya.
He said in Sabah the culture of mutual respect and acceptance of the different ethnicities, cultures and religions must be upheld.
“If only we all can embrace such values, peace and harmony will prevail,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Sabah Council of Churches (SCC) said it was disturbed and saddened by the protest of a group of people on April 19 at Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, against a church which has been in operation since August 2014.
“We are disturbed because we believe that this latest episode of religious tension is a symptom of the deterioration of religious harmony in Malaysia. Never before has our multi-racial and religiously diverse nation faced so much anger and intolerance,” said Sabah Council of Churches president Rev. Datuk Jerry Dusing in a statement yesterday.
Dusing said, they still maintained their conviction that such hatred and provocative actions by a handful of extremists were certainly not representative of the Malaysian society as a whole, and that the overwhelming majority of Muslim brothers and sisters strongly uphold the true Islamic value of respect and tolerance towards other religions and their places of worship.
“It goes without saying that it is the constitutional duty of the authority to guarantee that non-Muslims could practise their religions in peace and harmony (Article 3 (1) of the Federal Constitution). Such duty extends to protect not just the many in a cathedral, but also every small congregation of the few – indeed, especially the small congregations of the few,” he said.
Dusing added that SCC believed that the government also has a greater and more onerous, moral duty to foster greater understanding among all Malaysians. Incidents such as this usually stem from ignorance, and ignorance breeds hatred.
“The cross is also a symbol of humility and forgiveness, and could and should never be conceived as a challenge or provocation in any way, shape or form,” he said.
He added the fact that the true meaning of the sacred symbol of Christian faith could be distorted in this manner, showed just how deeply the mistrust and misunderstanding had developed among us.
“This above everything else in this unfortunate episode – truly fills our hearts with sorrow,” he said.
Dusing therefore believes that it is counter-productive to penalize ignorance with the law.
“Humiliation would only breed more hatred. Rather, we trust that if the protestors were to understand the true meaning of the cross – regardless of whether they agree with the rest of the Christian faith or not – they would not perceive it as anything other than a symbol of the love and mercy of God.
“Unity in diversity is not a dream in Malaysia – it is a reality, and always has been. That does not mean that it is easy, or else the Malaysian story would not be as beautiful and meaningful as it is. Let us look forward to more dialogues to foster genuine understanding with our fellow Malaysians,” he said.