Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Are all religions are equal?

8 November 2006

They are in the eyes of God not in the eyes of man

Of late we, the non-Muslim minorities,have been subjected to a lot of unfavourable remarks and even actions that are discriminating.The latest of these was a call Muslims not to wish Hindus Happy Deepavali. They were also adviced to shun participating in celebrations of the festivities of other religions. These practices are according to them un-Islamic and shloud be banned.

Statements like these are the least required in a multi-racial and multi-religious society like ours.Nevertheless they are becoming more rampant these days,with total disrespect for our feelings.It is also causing a great deal of anxiety and fear among the non-Muslims in the country.

More and more we are being treated as second class citizens with erosion of our rights as enshrined in the federal constitution. There is total failure to understand that religious tolerance is a mutual process among the various religious communities and not a unilateral practice as it is now.

Since the seventies in the pretext of restructuring society new rules were introduced in the name of religion. All institutions in particular, the civil service and education system were tailored towards the creation of an Islamic State. Since then there was no turning back and slowly but surely the nation was heading in that direction. In the process the contributions of the non-Muslims were totally ignored.

The Muslims were segregated from non-Muslims by a new code of conduct which forbids them from freely mingling with those of other faiths. Some of these include separate dress code, issue of “halal” food, and unacceptability of the rites and practices of other religions, the forbiddance of participation in common goodwill celebrations like “kongsi-raya” and “deepa-raya”, attending marriage and funeral ceremonies in Churches and temples of even very close friends.

Non-Muslim places of worship are not allowed near the vicinity of mosques and suraus.Some of these temples and churches which were there for more than a century are demolished or re-sited to less prominent places to “hide” them from the sight of Muslims.

A non-Muslim on marrying a Muslim has no choice but to convert to Islam and the children too must be brought up as Muslims. The non-Muslim whose spouse converts to Islam loses all his rights of his previous marriage under the civil laws. Even custody over the children is not allowed.

Our religious and cultural believes and practices are ill-tolerated. Our requests for dialogue to solve our inter-faith problems are rejected as they refuse to sit down to discuss on equal standing. Of late there has been the threat of mob rule as a means to solve inter-faith problems.

All these are due to the attitude that the majority in power is superior to all others. As long as they do not accept us as equal partners, there can never be any useful inter-faith dialogue.

We are very disappointed and frustrated at the way the Muslim majority treats us, as being inferior to them. We are all Malaysians but we are not equal. Those in power refuse to sit with us for a dialogue. They refuse to dine with us; dress like us and even mingle with us, let alone accepting our rites and practices as legitimate, just because we are of a different religion.

We may profess different faiths but aren’t we all children of God? Aren’t we all equal in His eyes? Aren’t all religions equal? What did Jesus mean when he said, “Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? Give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you”. (Luke 11:40-41).

Yes, on the outside we, from various religions, are all different but on the inside we are all the same, the children of one God, whom we call by different names. As Jesus says the exterior does not matter, what is important is the inside, which we must give to those deserving around us.

All religions rightly teach us that we are equal in the eyes of God,but are we really equal in the eyes of man?The problems in the world today clearly demonstrate that we are not.Followers of individual religions consider themselves to be superior to others and that is the underlying cause of inter-religious conflicts and turmoil.

As Christians and especially Catholics, what is our stand on the issue of equality of religions? Many among us may be also governed by the same misconceived egotistic attitude that we are superior to others. In the eyes of God are we?

By instituting stringent rules we set up a barrier around us, preventing free exchanges between ourselves and those from other faiths. We too are skeptical of practices, rites and rituals of other religions and not willing not accept them as legitimate. We even forbid our members from attending their religious functions. We indoctrinate our children that our religion in the only way to God.

We refuse to allow others from different religion to participate in some of our rites of worshiping God because of our belief that only Catholics, regardless of they are good or bad, are entitled to that.

Don’t these constitute the belief that we are superior to others? By looking down on non-Catholics as lesser beings, aren’t we guilty of the same misconceptions of those in power, who do the same to us, which we vehemently detest? Is it justified to condemn others as being unfair to us when we ourselves are guilty of the same?

Let us ponder on these to see where we stand in inter-faith relationship and the concept that all religions are equal in the eyes of that one God.

Dr.Chris Anthony

No comments: