May 12, 2007
Global Interfaith Seminar Cancelled
Inter-religious tolerance and understanding reversed,
Promoted, widely talked about in speeches songs and all galore,
But poorly practised, poorly preached,
Members from all sides still beseech
But the thundering noise continues the more.
We seek refuge in each other pretending to identify
Because of our skin but do we really know the colours
Do we know who we are really our race religion daily questioned,
And now unable to speak to each other
Can we speak at all?
Our lips stitched shut, we
Smile pretending we are the best of friends on tv they showed it to us
And we believe it,
Or do we?
The Council of Churches of Malaysia is as much confused as the organisers of the London office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as to the sudden withdrawal of the endorsement and support by the Malaysian authorities for holding the Building Bridges seminar in Kuala Lumpur, from 7-11 May 2007.
Cancellation of Building Bridges Global Interfaith Seminar
The Conference was to coincide with the first visit of the Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, to the Anglican Church of Malaysia.
At the stage of initial preparations, begun a year ago, representatives of the Archbishop’s office for Interfaith Relations received a warm reception from the Prime Minister’s Office and other Islamic institutions, welcoming such a seminar as consistent with the government’s emphasis on encouraging civilizational and interfaith dialogue to foster and build mutual respect and understanding between the world’s religions.
To this end, the London office received a formal letter welcoming such a seminar which would have brought together over thirty world renowned Islamic and Christian scholars and theologians to deliberate under the theme; “Humanity in Context: Christian and Muslim perspectives on being human”.
The Building Bridges Seminar would have been the sixth held in a series since six years ago. Such seminars were held in London, New York, Qatar and Sarajevo and the papers from the seminars have been published.
The organisers were excited at the prospect of meeting in Malaysia, as the context would provide the international scholars exposure to the achievements of Malaysia in encouraging interfaith dialogue at the national and international levels. Malaysia could have offer itself as a model of harmonious living between different cultures and religions.
The Council of Churches and other Islamic institutions were approached in the initial stages to host mini seminars to which Muslim and Christian participants could interact with local people of the deliberations of the seminar.
But for unknown reasons the organisers received formal word from the authorities here that support has been withdrawn. This came barely three weeks before the scheduled dates. In respect to the government, the organisers felt it wise to cancel the seminar.
The Council of Churches is at a lost as to the reasons why the authorities have withdrawn support at such a late stage.
The Council of Churches had hoped that such a seminar would have gone a long way in pursuing the path of respectful dialogue and strengthens our country’s claim to be a viable venue to host such global interfaith dialogues.
In the light of this development, the Council of Churches most sincerely and humbly appeals to the government to review its decision and offer the organisers an alternative date when the said seminar could be held in Malaysia.
The Council of Churches reaffirms its commitment to building peace through interfaith dialogue. The Council will continue to support the Prime Minister’s vision and efforts to nurture and strengthen Malaysia as a model nation of harmonious living between cultures and religions.
Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri
The General Secretary
Of the Council of Churches of Malaysia.
10th May 2007
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