PETALING JAYA: Muslims, Christians and other religious leaders came together for a breaking of fast event last night, with organisers hoping it will encourage people of different faiths to build a better understanding among them.
The “buka puasa” event at a hotel here was organised by a group called the Global Unity Network (Unity) headed by popular Muslim preacher Shah Kirit Kakulal Govindji.
The event was supported by Christians for Peace and Harmony in Malaysia (CPHM), which also invited several pastors to join Muslims as they waited for the azan signalling the end of the day’s fast.
It was the fifth “interfaith buka puasa” organised by Unity.
CPHM in turn has organised Christmas gatherings with Muslim community leaders as well as those from other faiths.
“This is how we work together. We get the religious leaders to sit down together and make friends rather than holding a talk and everyone going their separate ways after,” CPHM chairman Lee Min Choon told FMT.
He said it was unfortunate that the country had seen polarisation in recent times, and warned that it would get “harder to make things better”.
“We religious leaders are part of the grassroots level, so we try to get grassroots leaders to get involved,” he said.
He said religious leaders should not see their counterparts from other faiths as rivals, but as friends, as their objectives are similar.
“Those who lead mosques, churches or temples, they are all trying to make their followers better human beings, better citizens, so there are many similar values.”
Meanwhile, Shah Kirit said his group has organised courses and meetings between religious leaders.
“Conflicts happen because there is dissatisfaction which stems from misconceptions.”
He said while some Muslims felt the position of Islam was being challenged, some non-Muslims felt they were denied religious freedom.
He said bringing together leaders of different faiths does not undermine Islam’s status as the religion of the federation.
“We are not saying all religions are the same. To us, it is about respecting one another.”
Shah Kirit said there have been critics of his efforts including the interfaith buka puasa, adding that it was unfortunate that extreme voices on both sides are seen as representing Muslims and non-Muslims.
“I don’t think they are evil, I think they misunderstand. They don’t understand what we do, our goals.”