Current Affairs: When Religion Unites

To many, the very prospect seems absurd. When one takes into account the extent of the discord happening in the Middle East thanks to ISIS militants that had been instigated by religion, very few are willing to believe that religion may actually be able to unite those of other faiths. With their minds focused only on the violence happening overseas, they do not take into account what may be happening at home.

This Hari Raya season, though some may take this chance to go on a holiday instead, most Muslims choose to stay at home or return to their hometowns to visit relatives and hold reunions. It is a time of celebration and socialisation, to meet relatives and keep in touch. The festival season itself is intended to bring about and strengthen close relationships with the family.

However, even this festival scene is becoming increasingly lonesome as members of other religions are increasingly absent. They do not attend open houses as often as before; perhaps this is a mistake on the part of Muslims holding these open houses, as Muslims may not invite them and they may be discouraged about attending. Either that, or those of other religions may believe that it is sacrilegious to celebrate such festivals or allow those of different faiths to attend, when doing so poses no danger at all to their own faith.

This is becoming ever more apparent in certain households, but in others, the exact opposite is occurring. Drawing from my own experience coming from a mixed family, when I returned to my grandfather’s home in Kuching, we hosted a wide amalgamation of people from many different backgrounds, in spite of the obvious disparity in terms of their race.

We met with relatives who spoke only in Hokkien; likewise, relatives whose communication was restricted to Malay. Not only did we meet with relatives, but friends as well. We reunited with old friends yet again and embraced family members we hadn’t seen for years. I myself am mixed, and during this Raya I felt a sense of unity amongst both races, regardless of whom I was meeting.

Perhaps the segregation it is a fault on both ends, and therefore both must work together to prevent this festival from becoming one of exclusion and dissonance. The only way of achieving this is through understanding and the acceptance of one another which can be gained by actively making an effort to learn about the many celebrations hosted by each culture. Festivals are perfect for this as they invite participation from all, as well as promote better relationships between each.

Taking small steps eventually equates to a big leap. So during this Raya season - as well as the upcoming Diwali in November, make an effort to meet with old relatives and friends; attempt to further your understanding of others’ cultures because as we all know, harmony begins at home.


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