Tuesday, September 17

Lighting each other’s candles

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“Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours shine brighter.”

I am much taken by this aphorism; however, not everyone share this view. There are people who go around belittling, insulting and even attacking other people’s culture and religion in the hope of establishing the superiority and supremacy of what they claim to be their religion.

One obvious example is a famous Indian Islamic preacher who uses his gift of photographic memory to memorise the Holy Books of the main religions and in turn pick out passages, quoting and interpreting them out of context in order denigrate and malign other faiths to score brownie points and claim superiority of his brand of creed. This preacher argues: “Regarding (the) building of churches or temples – how can we allow this when their religion is wrong, and when their worshiping is wrong?”

Wow! Isn’t that clear example of the logical fallacy of ‘begging the question’? To beg is a circular reasoning that assumes the conclusion of an argument. In this case he assumed the validity of his conclusion that “their religion is wrong” by he merely declaring them to be. The sad thing is that many are mesmerised by his public speaking skill and adore him, including a number of Malaysians.

Last year, a group of Muslims in Kuala Lumpur demonstrated to demand the removal of a cross outside a church in their neighbourhood. Apparently they found the cross so offensive and threatening that they took to the street to aggressively express their opinion. The worry thing was that the authorities dealt with them with kid gloves.

It takes a fake (I believe) to bring this dangerous silliness to an imbecilic level. Last week someone, signing himself as ‘Brunei Patriot’ posted on the Internet demanding that churches along the Miri-Brunei road to be demolished for allegedly proselytising to Muslims. He claimed that these churches displaying words praising Jesus are being provocative.

I have my doubt about the authenticity of this post. He could very well be an agent provocateur wanting to sow discontent between Christians and Muslims, and to give Brunei a bad name. Call him mischievous, call him misguided but ultimately his act is malevolent.  I fear that his might have traction with some moronic religious out there who might just take his words seriously.

I must admit I do concur with friend who wrote:  “These religious fanatics are poison to a harmonious and humane society.  I believe their actions are driven by two contradictory psychological factors – arrogance and insecurity. This is a very potent cancer that is not easy to get rid of. They are like a miasma of dark cloud that threatens to engulf the world. I am so down.”

Yes, I was depressed too that there is so much darkness in our world. In fact I was tempted to take the defeatist suggestion of one columnist who considered leaving our beloved homeland if things continue its downward course. That was until I came across the quote by St Francis of Assisi (1181-1226): “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

The candle of hope can be found right here in our Fair Land Sarawak.

Look at this headline dated March 11, 2016 – “Car park to enhance religious ties.”

In Miri, there a church and a mosque that stands side by side. For years, they have allowed the congregation of the two faiths to use each other’s car park during their respective prayer days.

Many have sung praises of this example of religious respect. Can they top this noble gesture? Well, they just did. The An Naim Mosque committee in constructing a new car park has included an entrance at the back of the church to enable easy access for churchgoers to utilise the Mosque car park.

I go teary when I read that, especially when I remember the angry and belligerent faces of the Muslims in that corner of our national capitol demanding the removal of the cross on the church in Petaling Jaya.

Look at us, ye bigots and eat your heart out!

Then I think again, can we top this? Yes, we just did. On June 17, the Islamic Information Centre (IIC) issued a press release, stating: “Ramadan is not only a month of mercy and blessings, it is also a month to strengthen ties and renew friendships. With that as a backdrop, the IIC together with the Archdiocese of Kuching organised a buka puasa or breaking of fast at the Archdiocesan Curia and Cathedral Parish Centre (ACCPC) recently.”

The statement was accompanied by a number of photos showing representatives of the two major religions sharing a meal under the shadow with crosses and Christian religious pictures. Oh my Gosh! Muslims breaking fast in the presence of the cross! Some religious bigots must be spinning in their graves!

In his welcoming remarks, Archbishop Dato John Ha of the Catholic Church thanked the Islamic Information Centre members, led by the indomitable IIC chief executive officer Zabariah Matali. While acknowledging that there are differences in their respective faiths, he said: “This evening we choose to focus on what unites us rather than what divided us so as to embrace mutual respect and acceptance and live together in harmony and peace in our beloved and beautiful State of Sarawak and Country of Malaysia.”

The highlight of the evening was the exchange of holy books between Archbishop John Ha and Zabariah as a gesture of mutual respect and continued friendship between the two faiths. Dato John Ha was presented with a copy of The Holy Quran, while Zabariah was presented with the Holy Bible.

Let me end with a quote from a Japanese book on Buddhism called ‘The Teaching of Buddha’.

It reads: “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened.”