Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the launching of the book ‘Contemporary Issues on Malaysian Religions’ put out by the Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism at Hotel Hilton on Saturday, 24.11.1984
DAP calls for the formation of an Inter-Religious Council to promote inter-religious understanding, tolerance and goodwill among the major religions in Malaysia as a check against the incipient religious polarisation in Malaysia.
I congratulate the Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism which organised a Seminar on ‘Common Religious Values for Nation Building’ in April this year for publishing its proceedings in this book form, under the title of ‘Contemporary Issues On Malaysian Religious’.
The multi-religious aspect of Malaysia is one of the plural characteristics of the Malaysian society, and it could either be a force of division or unity.
In our 27 years of independent nationhood, Malaysia had been happily spared the religious strife which had convulsed other multi-religious nations, although in the last two years, there have been disturbing trends and developments which if unchecked, could engulf Malaysia in a new and probably the most powerful force of disunity and disintegration for our society- religious polarisation.
The seriousness of the religious problem to national unity could be seen from the fact that for the first time in Malaysian history, the government has issued a White Paper on religion, entitled ‘Ancaman Kepada Perpaduan Umat Islam dan Keselamatan Negara’.
The secular and multi-religious character of Malaysia, as enshrined and guaranteed by Article 11 of the Malaysian Constitution is under test and challenge.
If all religious groups in Malaysia do not rise up to the challenge to defend and assert the secular multi-religious character of Malaysia, then we have only ourselves to blame if we are found wanting in the test and challenge and subtle, fundemental but irreversible changes take place rewriting the very basis of the Malaysian nationhood.
At a time when the air is full of disturbing developments about the shape of things to come in the 21st century for Malaysia, it must be the common endeavour of all Malaysians to do their almost to preserve the multi-religious character of Malaysia, where inter-religious respect, harmony, understanding, tolerance and goodwill is the hallmark of every good Malaysian citizen.
This will ensure that religious diversity will not be a focus for division in our country, and that religious polarisation will not become the new and probably the most powerful threat to national unity.
This is why I strongly believe that the time has come for the formation of an Inter-Religious Council comprising the major religions in Malaysia to promote inter-religious understanding, respect, harmony and tolerance, for we do not want the various religions in Malaysia to be in a state of undeclared war, but in an active state of working together with the common aim of promoting the common universal values which could form the basis of unity for all Malaysian.