It is time for Malaysians to move beyond tolerance. We have to each advocate acceptance because tolerance has a breaking point.
IT’S a strange time to pen a Christmas column with the tragedy which happened in Sydney, and the devastating, sad and reckless loss of lives in Pakistan, still fresh in one’s mind.
Public tribute: A floral memorial near the Lindt Chocolate cafe in Sydney. — EPA
The senseless, callous and merciless slaughter by the Taliban of 148 people, many of them children in Peshawar, has triggered widespread revulsion around the world.
This massacre came a day after a lone gunman seized a cafe in Sydney and held 17 hostages. A gun battle eventually left three people, including the hostage-taker, dead.
The condemnation of these two acts has been swift, just as the outpouring of grief and sympathy for those who lost their lives in these tragedies.
As the world reacts to these incidents, Christians from all corners of the globe and from all denominations will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in a few days time.
Christmas is also a time where you wind down, reflect on how much work you’ve done over the year, and take stock of your personal life.
And because of its year-end date, this is a season usually observed by all, whether you’re Christian or not.
The end of December, smack in the middle of school holidays, is a time when shopping complexes are packed to the brim with bargain hunters and shoppers looking to buy gifts for their loved ones.
Walk into any major shopping centre in the Klang Valley and marvel at the beautiful decor put up specially for the occasion.
Like many others, I’ve already done my fair share of Christmas shopping, but as I reflect on the year that was, this will undoubtedly be a sad Christmas for me because 2014 has been a year filled with tragedies.
The twin airline disasters earlier in the year of MH370 and MH17 still hurt and now these two terrorist incidents, even though occurring in Australia and Pakistan, have just made things worse.
As someone who works in the newspaper line, I’ve been asked this question a number of times, “why is there so much bad news in the media?” The simple answer is, this year, there just hasn’t been enough good news.
Back home, we see more and more traces of extremism and vested parties trying to destroy the fabric of moderation and peace in the fragile ecosystem of Malaysia’s race relations.
Maybe I’m looking back at the past with rose-tinted glasses, but growing up in Klang, I remember friends of all races celebrating Christmas in my parents house.
Race relations weren’t even articulated then. We just called it good ol’ fashionedmuhibbah. These days more has to be done to promote the spirit of muhibbah.
The Star has taken on the cause of championing this by promoting moderation and in recent days, we have seen eminent groups of intellectuals, civil servants and thought leaders come out strongly to promote and champion moderation.
Maybe during this season, Malaysians have an opportunity to reflect and demonstrate muhibbah.
One such example would be for us to really reflect on how we should, in our own little communities, start getting along better with each other.
Let’s not look at the speck in our neighbours’ lives. I think it is time for Malaysia and Malaysians to move beyond tolerance – beyond respect of religion and race, we have to each advocate acceptance because tolerance has a breaking point.
It is crucial that we overcome this breaking point and the way to do this would be acceptance of each other’s beliefs and traditions, as long as it does not impinge on our personal freedom.
Christmas reflects a time for peace to prevail. It mirrors the fact that the divine has crossed the threshold by walking amongst men. It is a perennial story of humility and perseverance.
Above all, in Christian teachings in the little obscure town of Bethlehem, the birth of the Baby is a clarion call of hope. As a true blue Malaysian who will celebrate Christmas, I am glad we at The Star have taken a firm step against extremism with our call to moderation.
This for me is the hope that beckons for Malaysia as it beckoned in that little obscure village over 2,000 years ago.
A Merry Christmas to one and all. ‘Tis the season of hope.
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.