Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Church arson reveals inherent goodwill

Offers hope for a lasting solution if not politicised

Malaysians witnessed some tense and defining moments over the last few days. The arson attacks on Churches following the High Court judgment on the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims were indeed sad and dangerous acts. There was great relief that the retaliation over the verdict was not as serious as expected. Even the much feared mass protests did not get the support of the people.

The vast majority of Malaysians including Muslims openly condemned the attacks on churches calling them un-Islamic and uncivilized. In fact many Muslim scholars and leaders had very harsh words for those who carried out these attacks. The Christians on the other hand kept calm and restrained from retaliating thereby avoiding aggravating already the tense situation further.

There was a rare show of mutual concern and love between Muslims and Christians following the firebombing of the churches. In churches around the country Christians gathered to offer prayers for peace in the country. The sermons emphasized on forgiveness and love for fellow Muslims not revenge and retaliation. On the other hand many Muslim groups reciprocated with their gesture of goodwill. They volunteered to guard the churches and offering their hands of friendship to the Christian minority.

Even the politicians across the political divide came forward to condemn the attacks and offered aid in the form of money, security, temporary venues for worship and above all reassurance. On the whole there was an air of repentance and forgiveness prevailed instead of hate and revenge that helped bring the tension down quickly and without major catastrophe.The abundant goodwill that ensued was unprecedented and took Malaysians by surprise .

It must be noted that the moderate majority on both sides managed to take control to deny the minority extremists in their midst to disrupt the peace and stability. Moreover it exposed the inherent goodwill in them by their conciliatory gestures that were unprecedented. These actions of the moderate majority helped pull the country quickly from the brink of chaos. This was a positive development that augurs well for the well being of the future of nation with diverse race and religion if only it is not politicised.

The whole episode demonstrated a high level of wisdom and maturity of the people which was underestimated all these years. This is the second time after the historic 12th General Elections when the people rose beyond expectations to do the right thing for the well being of the nation. They have made it clear that they are not going to allow the few opportunists to undermine the peace and harmony that we have cherished all these years.

It also shows that the people are beginning to accept the stark realities of the need for the people of varied races and religion to coexist peacefully. Whether they like or not the people of all ethnicity have to adapt to this hard reality of life in our multiracial and multi-religious nation. They must not just tolerate but accept and respect the differences among them however great they may be.

The dispute over the use of Allah is far from over but with so much inherent goodwill among the people there is a good chance that it can be solved amicably without politicizing the issue further. There is a need to understand the emotional and legal implications of the issue on both the disputing parties who must compromise to reach an amicable situation. Long-term solution is by means of dialogue and goodwill not legal suits which will only aggravate the already tense situation by playing into the hands of opportunist extremists.

Similar inter-faith disputes are bound to crop again and again. With the increasing maturity of the people I am sure we can overcome all of them amicably. The only way forward is civil inter-faith dialogue which the people have indicated they are ready and it now up to the political leaders to make it happen, the sooner the better.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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