On 15 August, around 200 Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs attended an interfaith gathering in the compound of An-Nur Mosque in Sibu, in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, to coincide with celebrations for the Hari Raya festival. According to the Borneo Post Online, the participants included representatives of seven Buddhist associations, several Hindu and Sikh temples, and the Association of Churches Sarawak (ACS), Sibu branch, which is comprised of the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), and Anglican churches.
Hari Raya, more commonly known as Eid al-Fitr, is the biggest festival in the Islamic calendar, marking the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. In Southeast Asia, the festival is known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Idul Fitri. In Malaysia this year Hari Raya was celebrated on 17 and 18 July.
This year’s Hari Raya celebrations at Sibu’s An-Nur Mosque were more festive than usual as for the first time representatives of other faiths were invited to participate in a spirit of religious harmony. Dr. Annuar Rapaee, assemblyman for the district of Nangka, who officiated at the ceremony, described the occasion as a memorable event that would help cement religious and racial harmony.
Spirit of togethernes at An-Nur Mosque. From thestar.com.my
“This is a historic moment for all of us here and the turnout was overwhelming. We have decided to make it an annual affair,” Rapaee told reporters. “I have suggested to Buddhist [associations here] to organize a similar event during Wesak Day and likewise on Christmas celebration to gather people from all walks of life.” (Borneo Post Online)
“This time we only invited the committee members from the various churches and temples. In the future, we want more to join when such gatherings take place at churches, temples and mosques,” Rapaee said. (The Star Online)
Highlighting the occasion’s spirit of religious harmony, Rapaee noted: “In Sarawak, we are all like brothers and sisters despite coming from different backgrounds, and we work closely with one another. There is no issue here. This is the way we should maintain it to promote greater religious and racial harmony.” (Borneo Post Online)
Hii Chang Kee, associate lay leader of the Methodist Church Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, concurred: “I fully agree with Dr. Annuar that we in Sarawak are unique as we tolerate each other even though we have different religious backgrounds.” (The Star Online)
Also in attendance were An-Nur Mosque chairman Sibu Latif Coupon, Archdeacon Jamal Senada of the Northern Archdeaconry, Bishop of Sibu the Right Reverend Joseph Hii Teck Kwong, Sibu Buddhist Association chairman Charlie Tan, and Sibu Buddhist (Thai) Learning Centre adviser Joseph Lim.
Lim noted that representatives of seven Buddhist associations had attended the occasion, and that he hoped to see more such events to help foster a spirit of unity.
“Each church is represented by five committee members and we are all delighted to join in this closing of Hari Aidilfitri celebration,” said Archdeacon Jamal. “Through this occasion, we will be able to build closer cooperation between one another here.” (Borneo Post Online)
Mosque chairman Latif Coupon said he hopednext year’s gathering could cater to even more people and help foster greater interfaith understanding. “You see, a mosque is not only a place to pray but an avenue to exchange ideas among different faiths,” he said. (Borneo Post Online)
An-Nur Mosque’s Raya do an interfaith affair (Borneo Post Online)
Sibu mosque holds Raya gathering with members of other faiths (The Star Online)