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Speech by Lim Guan Eng at the "True Moderation" Conference held in conjunction with the UN World Inter-Faith Harmony Week on Saturday, 18th February 2012: 

Speech at the "True Moderation" Conference held in conjunction with the UN World Inter-Faith Harmony Week  

Selamat pagi dan selamat datang ke persidangan "Kesederhanaan Tulen"(True Moderation) yang dianjurkan oleh Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang sempena Minggu Keharmonian Antara Agama Sedunia Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu.

Sejak zaman purba lagi, negara kita sudah menjadi sebuah negara yang berbilang agama. Di Lembah Bujang, terdapat kesan peninggalan sebuah kerajaan Hindu-Buddha yang wujud sekitar tahun 170 Masihi. Mengikut Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, Kerajaan Kedah, yang pernah memerintah Pulau Pinang, ditubuhkan oleh seorang raja Hindu berbangsa Parsi, Maharaja Durbaraja, pada tahun 634 Masihi. Keturunannya, Maharaja Phra Ong Mahawangsa, telah memeluk agama Islam dan menjadi Sultan Kedah pertama pada tahun 1136 Masihi. Bermula dari abad ke-15, agama-agama yang lain, iaitu agama Kristian, Sikh dan Tao, juga dibawa masuk ke negara kita. Sekarang, Islam adalah agama Persekutuan, tetapi agama-agama lain boleh diamalkan secara bebas dalam aman dan damai.

We should never take for granted the religious freedom and the relative harmony that we have enjoyed in this country. The practice of holding an annual World Inter-Faith Harmony Week was established in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly, which encouraged governments to support the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill based on love of God and love of one's neighbour.

Religious conflict generally arises from the wilful failure or inability of the followers of religions to temporarily set aside their own religious viewpoints and to see the world through the eyes of other human beings. The ability to empathise with others is what makes man a moral being. There is no religion in the world that does not contain the golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you".

For a person who has understanding, the shared values that are common to all human religions are greater than the differences that divide us. Despite our differences, we are all humans, and all religions seek what is good for human society and condemn what is destructive. Love, truth, respect, fairness and honesty are universally praised, while murder, cheating, theft, oppression and lying are universally condemned. If we cannot empathise with our fellow citizens and our fellow human beings who are of different religions and to see the world through their eyes, then we will continue to be divided from them and to fail to promote the good of our nation and our human society.

Religious harmony requires not simply that we tolerate other religions, as we would tolerate a stranger who sits next to us on the bus. True religious harmony requires that we give honour and respect other religions and other religious beliefs. Those of us who are married may not like or agree with our mothers-in-law, but we honour and respect them because they are dearly loved by our wives! So it should be with the religious beliefs our friends and our colleagues. We respect them, despite our differences, because of our shared values and because they are dearly held by people who are our friends and fellow citizens.

Di Pulau Pinang, kita mempunyai suatu teladan keharmonian agama yang historik di Lebuh Pitt, Lebuh Keharmonian kita, di mana Gereja St George's, Tokong Kuan Im Teng, Kuil Sri Maha Mariamman dan Masjid Kapitan Keling semuanya boleh didapati di lebuh yang sama. Jalanraya-jalanraya Pulau Pinang sering dipenuhi oleh perayaan yang meriah dan bersemangat, seperti Thaipusam, perarakan Maulidur Rasul, Thnee Kong Sneh dan perayaan St Anne.

I believe that Penang can show the way to the rest of Peninsular Malaysia in inter-faith harmony. Here in Penang, we have for the first time set up an EXCO portfolio for non-Muslim affairs. We have increased several times the State allocations for Islamic affairs and provided burial grounds and religious schools. We have set up fixed institutionalised funding to partially-funded schools run by various religious communities and given land to schools and temples, as well as RM1 million annually to the Hindu Endowment Board. And today, we are holding what we hope will be the first of many inter-faith events to promote religious harmony and understanding.

We are appreciative of the presence today of Prof. Din Syamsuddin, Ketua Umum Muhammadiyah; Prof. Ramasamy, Deputy Chief Minister II; Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, Chairman of the Cheng-Ho Multicultural Education Trust; Dato' Dr Siddiq Fadzil, President of Wadah Kecerdasan Umat Malaysia; Bishop Antony Selvanagam, Chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism, Penang; and Dr Mujahid Yusuf Rawa, South-east Asia Inter-faith Dialogue Chairman.

But no amount of funding or State-sponsored activity can achieve anything if it is not accompanied by genuine religious moderation, which does not overstep proper bounds and which respects the rights of others. We must be wary of those who use the holy books for their own private and selfish ends - those who speak with forked tongues and quote the Scriptures in vain. There is no point forming a coalition of moderates while at the same time sustenance and even sponsorship is offered to bigoted and extremist organisations.

For this reason, today's conference on True Moderation seeks to explore the moral compass of all-encompassing universal values, to define the boundaries of moderation and to shape our thoughts and actions towards that which reinforces peaceful coexistence and inter-faith harmony. Let the common good in us be our armour and our respect of each other's faiths be our shield.

We believe that true moderation can only come from knowledge and understanding. A person who is ignorant and fearful about the place of his religion and of his relationship with persons of other faiths is bound to be defensive and extreme in his dealings with other faiths. It is only when a person understands the fundamentals of his own religion and the religious beliefs of others that he can practice true moderation that honours the fundamentals of his religion while respecting the rights and freedoms of others.

True moderation is justice;
True moderation is freedom;
True moderation is equality;
True moderation is knowledge seeking;
True moderation is truth;
True moderation is courage.

A true moderate personifies upward mobility, modesty, inclusiveness, courage and patience, piety, and above all, success. Most importantly, a true moderate must stand up to evil and wrongs. Evil exists because good people do nothing. We must not lose our faith in that narrative.

Terima kasih dan salam sejahtera.

*Lim Guan Eng, Penang Chief Minister



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