The public forum on interfaith dialogue organised by the MRA Malaysia (Moral Re-armament Malaysian Initiative of Change) held in Petaling Jaya last Wednesday deserves praise and could prove most useful for our politicians who happily keep harping on '"religious tolerance". Unfortunately, it was quite apparent that none of our elected leaders and politicians were around at the forum.
Chaired by its chairperson Dr Hajjah Saleha Haji Mohd Ali, the two-hour meet saw representatives from India, Cambodia, Vietnam, France, United Kingdom, Australia, Africa (Kenya), Korea and Jakarta present how MRA organisations in their respective countries successfully promote interfaith dialogue, good governance, transparency, rights and responsibilities in facing the challenges of people and nation-building.
As one presenter stated, "It is about the power of honesty, finding the roots in ourselves and building the future'.
Unfortunately, despite having a potpourri of cultures with multi-religious beliefs in our country coupled with a stable government, our politicians are unable to build on these strengths while the world moves into a new playing field of understanding and awareness.
Instead of building on our commonalities, we are more inclined to be separated from each other. This is most unfortunate especially so when our neighbouring countries are moving faster in bridging the gaps within their communities.
An epitome of MRAs work was in how they promoted understanding and appreciation of each other's religion and cultural differences thereby enabling their nations to move forward. In place of 'sensitivity' and 'tolerance' amongst believers of different faiths, MRAs champion a learned appreciation and respect for different communities practicing distinctly differing religious beliefs.
Politicians here should quickly learn from such phenomenal work in the world today. The era of compartmentalising people by creed and culture and harping on the seeming fragility of a multi- cultural and diverse religious practice is certainly antiquated. Instead of preaching a divisive stance, they should take advantage of the progressive and meaningful work by organisations like MRA.
As rightly pointed out by another speaker, we should quickly learn and master, "How to focus on what is right and not keep harping on who is right". Unless and until our politicians learn this mantra quickly, we as a nation will only slide backwards while our neighbours arrive at destinations of greater national progress and determination.
The time to change has arrived. And we must change for the better. Otherwise all the great work put in by our forefathers will be washed away by the selfish and short-sighted antics of some politicians and leaders.