KOTA KINABALU – The National Integration and Unity Department (JPNIN) of the Prime Minister’s Department has been celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) since 2011.
The inaugural ‘Harmony Visit’ among the different faiths in Sabah was held in 2014, followed by the second in 2015. After a break of two years, JPNIN once again organized 2018 Harmony Visit and invited delegates from the Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Taoist and Baha’i communities to be part of the initiative, which took place on 25 Aug 2018. The visit was made to the Buddhist Temple, the Catholic Church, the Hindu Temple and the Mosque within the vicinity of Bukit Padang.
Over 200 people comprising of organizers, religious bodies and youth groups participated in the program. Neil Mah, representing the Sabah Council of Churches (SCC) led the Christian group which included members of other churches besides the Roman Catholic (PCS, Grace Chapel, BCCM and SIB).
Church of Mary Immaculate (CMI) was placed second in the list of places of worship to be visited. On arrival, the delegates were welcomed by the parish rector, Fr Paul Lo together with some members of the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC). They were briefed by Neil on the Christian population in Sabah, as well on the history of CMI, which this year incidentally marks her 25th anniversary. Prior to CMI, the group visited the Buddhist Temple, and following CMI to the Hindu Temple where lunch was also served to the visitors.
The Interfaith Program concluded at the Mosque with a closing ceremony officiated by the Minister of Legal and Native Affairs, Datuk Aidi Mokhtar where he delivered a message from the Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
Shafie cautioned in his message, “We do not want any existence of an ethnocentrism culture and racism nesting in the hearts of the people which will affect the good relationship among the different races in this state.”
He underlined “The State of Sabah, which comprises of multi-ethnic groups and religions, is unique and an invaluable treasure that needs to be preserved and protected for generations to come.”
On this premise, he called upon everyone to care, to be sensitive, and to respect the various religions that exist in the state with moderation, and to be ever ready to extend assistance to the less fortunate.
He concluded that the interfaith program has enabled the various religions to make room for positive interaction and to work together to preserve the harmony among us.
Certificates of appreciation were then awarded to the representatives of the different faiths. On hand to receive on behalf of SCC was its President, Bishop Datuk Rev Melter Jiki Tais.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on 23 Sept 2010 by King Abdullah II of Jordan, and a month later unanimously adopted by the UN.
The initiative provides a focal point from which all peoples of goodwill can recognize that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have, and thus provide a strong dosage of peace and harmony to their communities. – CMI SOCCOM