From The Archbishop's Desk

Message: Joint Buka Puasa (17 June 2016) – Address by Archbishop John Ha


My dear brothers and sisters of the Islamic faith
My dear brothers and sisters in the Christian faith

Good evening and welcome to this “Buka Puasa” in this hall of our ACCPC. Thank you all for coming to participate in it.

I am grateful to Puan Zabaria Bt. Haji Matali, CEO of the Islamic Information Centre, Kuching, for her suggestion to hold this event this evening. She mooted the idea during her sharing of the Islamic faith and practices with us, priests of the Catholic Church in Kuching, in February this year. Her openness and the openness of the team that came with her gave us the confidence to accept her suggestion on the spot. And so here we are, doing the breaking of fast together. Some of us Catholics fasted today to be in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

In multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia, coupled with multi-political persuasions, there can be ugliness or beauty – depending on how we treat one another. Ugliness rears its head in the form of suspicion, dislike, aggression, condemnation, and even hate and violence. It arises when differences are harped on and struggle for domination is the order of the day. On the contrary, beauty takes its form in the harmony and peace in which people of different faiths and ethnic origins live with one another respectfully – like the rainbow of different colours arching across the sky. Harmony and peace are brought about not by tolerance which has been advocated for decades and failed for the most part, but by mutual respect and acceptance. For tolerance by nature implies mutual dislike, mutual aversion and even mutual offence, while mutual respect and acceptance make room for one another in society.

True believers in God respect and accept everyone as persons created by Him with all the faculties that He has given them – conscience being an important faculty among them. It is the conscience of the individual that leads him or her to embrace a particular belief in God – and therefore the religion of his conviction. I have no doubt that since He has given every person this conscience, God will accept him or her in whatever faith his or her conscience dictates.

This evening we are here as believers in God and adherents of two different faiths – Islam and Christianity. In all honesty, we admit that there are differences between us. But we also admit that there are commonalities as well. This evening, we choose to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us so as to embrace mutual respect and acceptance and live together in harmony and peace in our beloved and beautiful State of Sarawak and Country of Malaysia.

In this month of Ramadan and in our Christian season of Lent, the highlighted common practices we have are of course prayer, fasting and almsgiving/doing good deeds. Both Islam and Christianity pay great attention to these important practices as God-given ways to build up a relationship with Him and in doing so with one another. This evening we come together to “buka puasa” – to break the fast that we have observed today. We are also here to pray together – to worship God and ask His blessings for all. In doing so, we are expressing together our desire to do God’s will and grow in our relationship with Him as well as with one another. An inevitable end-product of such an exercise can only be mutual respect and acceptance – and even mutual love. This surely is an important pillar of harmony and peace for our State and Country.

Granted, we are a small group of believers in God, a small group of citizens, gathered for a common purpose. What we do is indeed very small, but not insignificant. For when we put our faith into practice and ask God to bless us, God’s intervention will turn this small gesture of ours into something big, significant and impactful. We pray that instead of being paralysed by the darkness created in our society by suspicion, dislike, desire for domination and even hate actions, each one of us will be a candle that has been lit by God’s light and brighten our State and Country.

The least effect of our modest gesture is to lessen the darkness that surrounds us. But for all we know, with God’s help, darkness will give way to brightness. Hopefully with the same efforts of others, total brightness will come our way. Then the beauty of our plurality will be seen and appreciated. Then peace and harmony will prevail.

May God bless us and our little gesture this evening. May all adherents of the Islamic faith truly experience closeness with God during this month of Ramadan so that they will truly have a fruitful celebration of Aidilfitri.

Archbishop John Ha

For the complete news report, go to Joint ‘Buka Puasa’ a sign of mutual respect and acceptance.