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Prime Minister of Malaysia Calls For End to Inter-Religious Strife

Monday, May 7, 2001 | Tag Cloud Tags: ,

May 7, 2001
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (ANS) - The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, made an impassioned plea for an end to inter-religious strife. Speaking at the official opening of the 11th General Assembly of the World Evangelical Fellowship in Kuala Lumpur on the evening of Friday, May 4, Dr Mahathir said that once started, religious disputes often lead to violence over several generations.

The Prime Minister's speech was itself an example of how people of different religions can respect each other. Dr Mahathir, a Muslim, was warmly welcomed with a standing ovation from the 600 Christian leaders from 82 nations who make up the World Evangelical Fellowship's General Assembly.

He said: "Intolerance breeds injustice. Injustice invariably leads to rebellion and retaliation, and these will lead to escalation on the part of both making reconciliation almost impossible. It would appear that during times of stress, despair and frustration, people become increasingly irrational, and they do things, which they never think they are capable of. And so we see hideous brutality perpetrated by the most gentle people.

"Once started religious strife has a tendency to go on and on, to become permanent feuds. Today we see such intractable inter-religious wars in Northern Ireland, between Jews and Muslims and Christians in Palestine, Hindus and Muslims in South Asia and in many other places. Attempts to bring about peace have failed again and again. Always the extremist elements invoking past injustices, imagined or real, will succeed in torpedoing the peace efforts and bringing about another bout of hostility.

"No one can be held responsible for acts committed by his ancestors. Yet most of us are still fighting each other because in the distant past our ancestors had fought. Because 500 years ago the Turks massacred the Serbs, today the Serbs are still bent on revenge seeking to kill Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo because of what happened 500 years ago.

"We are now at the beginning of a new century. It is a good time to resolve to break away from the tragedies of the past and to build on the realities of the present."

Dr Mahathir also called for leaders of different religious groups to begin a process of dialogue with each other in the cause of peace. He said: "In multi-racial, multi-cultural Malaysia it is also worthwhile for religious leaders to revisit their roles as we move into a new era in the development of society. The greatest contribution they can make is in promoting religious tolerance among their followers.

"Religious leaders may also wish to consider setting up inter-religious working groups at the various levels of the community. These can work to improve mutual understanding, adopting best-practice models from successful experiments where effective local and national mechanisms have been established for inter-communal communication, awareness and acceptance of the undertakings made when one is converting to another religion for whatever reason."

The World Evangelical Fellowship is an umbrella body representing some 116 national and regional evangelical alliances, which themselves represent some 160 million Christians worldwide. Over 600 Christian leaders from 82 countries have gathered for the 11th General Assembly - a gathering that takes place every four years.

Over the next few days, delegates to the WEF General Assembly will be discussing a range of issues including religious liberty, domestic abuse, youth, globalization, and ecclesiology - the nature of the Church.

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