KUCHING — In view of the worrying deterioration of relationships between peoples of different religious beliefs in parts of Malaysia, our local Church had experienced hope in building bridges with the Muslims.
On 17 February, upon the invitation of Archbishop John Ha, Pn Zabariah bt Haji Matali, the Chief Executive Officer of the Islamic Information Centre (IIC), went to the Mother Mary Home for Retired Priests (Stutong) to give a simple sharing with priests of the diocese during their monthly gathering and their usual recollection. Her presentation was entitled “Being a Muslim”. She shared the beliefs of Muslims as well as the practices they observed during the month of Ramadan which are similar to the Lenten disciplines practiced by Christians. Among these are praying, fasting and almsgiving. It was a time where representatives from the two religious faiths mutually enriched each other.
At the end of the presentation, Archbishop John Ha and Pn Zabariah exchanged gifts. Pn Zabariah gave the Archbishop materials on Islam while he presented her a copy of Nostra Aetate – Vatican II’s Declaration on Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions – which expresses esteem for Muslims, exhorts Christians and Muslims to “work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.”
An informal luncheon which followed witnessing priests and members from the IIC having fellowship together. It is hoped that this will mark the beginning of stronger relationship of respect and acceptance between Catholics and Muslims in Sarawak.
Pn Zabariah is a Sarawakian from Marudi who has helmed the IIC since its inception in 2008. The IIC’s goals include working to promote inter-religious dialogue and understanding guided by the principle of inclusiveness and universality being the precepts of Islam.
Fr Felix Au
Today’s Catholic Vol.27 No.12 March 2016