Ripples Of Hope ..

I’m glad the “People Like Us” Open Forum on Friday, June 12, co-organized by Muslims Professionals Forum and Friends-in-Conversation went well. In fact, it was much better than I expected! Marina Mahathir was kind enough to give the event extra publicity on her blog which generated some interesting comments.

As I saw some of the comments reflecting attitudes which this forum was designed to deal with, for example, I decided to leave my take on it since I was directly engaged in the organization and facilitation of the event:

Friends, the last time I stepped into the Bangsar Mosque for a forum organized by Muslim Professionals Forum at their invitation, I received a warm welcome. They didn’t have to, but the chairman was kind enough to publicly welcome me – a Christian pastor.

Sure, there maybe an initial feeling of awkwardness as I was the only non-Muslim (as far as I know) there. But my Muslims friends put me at ease. And I found the interaction enriching.

The back story for the organization for this particular open forum tonight was initiated by Muslim Professionals Forum, and Friends-in-Conversation (the Christian group I’m part of) felt this will be a good grassroots effort for us to work together.

So, as one of the organizers, I’m not worried about shouters or stone throwers. Based on what I know, we’re going to have some curry puff and drinks for those coming early 🙂 We’re having a conversation among friends not a grand debate.

Frankly, I think it’s time for us to drop such generalizations of people whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindus, atheist, or whatever. Each person is different. and in all faith communities there’s a wide spectrum on how we express our faith.

For me, tonight we’re in conversation with friends who believe we must not surrender this important space for us to engage to the so called “experts” or “activists” (whom both may not really speak for any of our communities). So often, we are clouded by the issues and forget the human being before us.

On arrogance, the Bible does clearly say, we are all sinners. So that will keep us all humble and ready to seek for repentance and after that work on better ways to relate.

And one thing for sure, we can’t just relate from a distance on the web. Face to face encounters where it’s based on mutual respect and trust, and friendship is a good place to start. A safe place.

I’ve long decided that if I don’t want to be part of the problem, then I want to do every bit I can to be part of the solution.

Anyone else want to join?

My friend Aloysius Pinto started the ball rolling with a written response which he sent to me after the event and now published online. I only need to correct some details because on paper those who came,  registered and left their contact information were 103 people in total!

But Aloysius was absolutely right in observing that it was a beautifully mixed crowd. Below is what he wrote, in the next post I’m happy to share from two younger voices, one Christian, and the other Muslim:

Excerpts from Friends in Conversation
full post at Malaysia Today

Through the conversations by these four persons, something interesting struck me!

It dawned on me that what is really happening is that there is a real battle heating up. The battle is not among races and religious groups, but between the Believers of TRUTH and the manipulation by PERCEPTION. Believer of all faiths have so much in common, and this event clearly showed the vast similarities.

Believers of various FAITHS must continue to engage with each other, not only in forums and formal events, but more so in our daily lives.

I’d also like to share insights from my two younger twenty something friends wrote two wonderful blog posts.

The first is from a young intelligent medical student Husna. The second one is from another young wise beyond his years lover of nature student Ben. Both wrote with sincerity and a good dose of deeper thought. If their tone and thoughts are what we can expect from today and the future, it adds fuel to the little fire of hope I keep burning.

Here’s an excerpt from Husna’s post:

Excerpts from Ikhlas Part 2
full post at Everyday Husna

We should eliminate the superior supremacy we have in the recent days, we should treat each other as equal as possible without any discrimination despite the differences in religious understandings, cultural practices or simply ideas. Sometimes, we prefer talking to people who would perhaps agree with us for we are afraid of conflicts that may arise when in fact there is a way in approaching or dealing with conflicts in the most civil manner as possible.

Respecting one another is also an important virtue to learn and the one way to do this is to learn about others perhaps by exploring their religion then only conversation as such would bring about mutual respect, and indeed benefits to both parties and to the society as a whole.

And another by Ben:

Excerpts from People Like Us .. At BLC
full post at ThirtyOne

More often than not, if you’ve been keeping up with the conversations and developments in society, there is little that is novel in a dialogue. But dialogues do serve as agents of confluence, and it is the bringing together of threads already floating about out there that is the purpose of dialogues.

All in all, I feel the conversation called, however indirectly and subtly, for more thorough self-examination, both in moral (our own shortcomings and prejudices, and not those of others) and spatio-temporal (our history, and where we are now) terms.

Abridged from the originals posts by Sivin Kit entitled Ripples from “People Like Us” Parts 1 & 2. Original photographs by Benjamin Ong.

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