Friday, February 26, 2016

Catholics, Muslims follow leaders’ cue, hold dialogue at National Mosque

Following a milestone meeting in January between two high-level Muslim and Christian leaders, groups from both religions held what they have described as a fruitful dialogue at the National Mosque earlier this month with promises of more such exchanges. The session was initiated by the Catholic Church's Archdiocesan Single Adults and Youth Ministry (Asayo), taking the cue from head of church, Archbishop Julian Leow, who paid a courtesy call on Federal Territories mufti Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri, during which both religious leaders spoke about various issues, including tolerance and mutual respect among religions. Asayo member Christopher Francis said he was awed by the welcome they received at the mosque in Kuala Lumpur from the imam of Masjid Jamek, Mohd Faisal Tan Mutalib, and members of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim). "It was quite amazing, they were sincerely happy to see us and it was such a warm feeling. "They were fantastic people, who not only had dialogues with us, they fed us and allowed us to observe their prayer session during Isyak." Christopher said the Muslim members also wanted to know how Christians observed Lent and in turn explained how zakat worked and whom it benefited. "They also told us how Jesus was a prophet to them as stated in the Quran. "They asked us about the Holy Spirit, and Father Gregory explained that part to them," Christopher said, referring to Father Gregory Chan, Asayo's ecclesiastical assistant and resident priest at the Church of the Holy Family in Kajang. Chan, meanwhile, told The Malaysian Insider that the visit was very satisfying and an opportunity to share things both faiths had in common. He added that the visits to the mosque and other places of worship during the season of Lent was part of the church's initiative to reach out to others, including people of other faiths. He said that they had the chance to explain the meaning of fasting, prayer and alms-giving for Catholics and in turn, were briefed about the zakat, puasa and Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. "It was a very healthy dialogue session and we were very well received. "It's very important to have these dialogues and sit down to talk about things that unite us." Abim vice-president Ahmad Fahmi Mohd Samsudin praised the visit by the Catholic youths and said they were preparing to return the courtesy. "It was a dialogue session in a harmonious setting where followers of both religions were keen to find out our similarities. "As part of civil society, it is important that we build friendships like these, despite what goes on in the political scene," Ahmad Fahmi said. Normah Sulaiman, the mosque tour guide with Islamic Outreach Abim, hailed the visit as historic, saying that in the past, groups of other faiths had visited the mosque but there had been no dialogue session. Such sessions, she said, were the foundation of living in peace and harmony in a multi-racial society and should be encouraged. Christopher said Asayo also visited the Sai Baba Centre in Bangsar, the Buddhist Sri Lankan Temple and Syrian Orthodox church in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur on the weekend following their visit to the mosque. "Datuk Jegathesan of the Sai Baba Centre even prepared lunch for us," said Christopher. Datuk J. Jegathesan is the founder of the Friendship Group for Inter Religious Service or FGIS, which has been actively promoting acts of interfaith comradeship, including group visits to places of worship. – February 27, 2016.]]>

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