Build peace with small acts, activists urged

Peter-RowanKUALA LUMPUR: A Christian missionary society has advised peace activists not to neglect small efforts in their quest for societal change.

Speaking at a forum here last weekend, Peter Rowan, the UK director of OMF International, said participating in a vigil and doing other small things were like planting seeds for a better future.

“These small things are like little mustard seeds. They seem insignificant. The world looks and sees a few people standing around. What is the point in that?” he said. “But actually, they matter. You have a sense of wanting to contribute to a better future.

“I think this is something we can encourage within the Christian community and the community at large.

People shouldn’t just wait around for some big political change to happen, he added.

Rowan was speaking at a session titled “Blessed are the Peacemakers: Becoming an Agent of Reconciliation in a Multicultural Society” and responding to a questioner who remarked that going to a vigil in contemporary Malaysia seemed pointless and nothing more than an act of provoking the police.

The questioner said Christians and Muslims seemed reluctant to attend vigils held in response to the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh and the disappearances of Perlis Hope charity outfit founder Amri Che Mat and Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife, Ruth

Koh was abducted in broad daylight by a group of people in Kelana Jaya on Feb 13. Joshua and Ruth were last seen on Nov 30 last year and Amri has been missing since last Nov 24.

Rowan said vigil participation was an aspect of peace building, adding that one could not divorce peacemaking from reconciliation and concern for justice.

“You are highlighting to the public the injustice that is being done in a non-violent way,” he said.

“That is a contribution to peace building and nation building.”

Centre for Religion and Society director Rev Sivin Kit said more needed to be done for the church to be an agent of peace building and reconciliation in Malaysia’s multicultural society.

He said there were stereotypes still being promoted online and that he had himself been misinterpreted.

“I was just doing peace building work,” he said. “I was not converting anyone. Even that was viewed as a threat.

“We need to have conversations. We cannot think in silos. We have to collaborate and work with other people, people from other faiths and ideologies. There needs to be more social contact.”