Thursday, September 19

Unite across all faiths, end polarisation and hate — Minister

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Fatimah (seated second left) together with (seated from left) Ngenang, Rosey, Zabariah and SWFC members show placards bearing motivational hashtags that call for unity across faiths. — Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

KUCHING: The Sarawak Women and Family Council (SWFC) is calling upon all opinion leaders across the globe, including politicians, community leaders and those heading civil societies, to not incite hatred by demonising Islam or any other faith, but instead, to unhesitatingly condemn extremism in all its forms.

In light of the New Zealand mosque attacks, which left 50 dead and dozens injured last Friday, SWFC chairperson Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said no race or religion should be subjected to fear and bigotry anywhere, and that no school, home, or workplace should breed such harmful attitudes.

“Outraged as we are by the terrible massacre in Christchurch, our reactions need to be ones that break the polarisation and hate, which are trying to divide communities.

“This is the time for us all to unite across faiths and work to stop violence and replace it with understanding and respect. Let us never allow hatred and anger against Muslims or other faiths take root in our hearts, and let us teach our children the same,” she told a press conference after officiating at the state-level World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Islamic Information Centre (IIC) here yesterday.

SWFC, she stressed, condemns the senseless, cold-blooded act of terror and stands in solidarity with the people of all faiths in New Zealand, particularly those in Christchurch.

“We express our heartfelt condolences to those grieving for lost loved ones and pray for the souls of the dead and for the speedy recovery of those injured. We also pray for all who have been traumatised by this horrendous act and hope that they find the strength and support they need to face this tragedy and work through the psychological pain it has caused.”

Fatimah also commended the New Zealand government’s determination to maintain the unity, diversity and peace for which the country is known for.

“We know New Zealanders will do all in their power to bring all the perpetrators of this massacre to justice. They have experienced a heinous crime of unimaginable proportion in two mosques, violating the sanctity of these places of worship.

“Such targeting of mosques seems to be the work of a few extreme individuals, but it is apparent Islamophobia is driving such actions and (this) needs to be roundly addressed, as does extreme nationalism which vilifies migrants, and any ideology spreading hate of our fellow human beings,” she remarked.

Fatimah expressed that while Sarawak has a proud history of its diverse communities of multiple ethnicities and faiths living together in peace and harmony, Sarawakians must not take this for granted.

“We must actively encourage interfaith activities to increase understanding and bonds of friendship. We strongly support programmes by IIC and other agencies in giving a correct world view of Islam.

“We applaud agencies like the Department of National Unity and Integration (JPNIN) Sarawak, Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Yayasan Perpaduan Sarawak, for their continued efforts to build bridges across communities and faiths.”

With Kuching currently observing the Sarawak Interfaith Harmony Week, Fatimah noted that this should serve as an opportunity for the people to renew their bonds of friendship, acceptance and respect of and for each other’s differences, for therein lies the strength that has bound everyone together as people.

“This is the message we want to pass on down the generations as this is the road to a peaceful, harmonious world.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to contribute through words, actions, activities, and programmes be it at home, schools or wider community, so that peace, harmony, unity and solidarity will prevail not only in our ‘Fairland Sarawak’, but throughout the world,” she emphasised.

Also present at the press conference were Assistant Minister of Women, Family and Childhood Development Rosey Yunus who is also SWFC deputy chairperson, Unifor director Datu Dr Ngenang Janggu and IIC chief executive officer Zabariah Matali.