By JERN KEN
Photos by JASON LIOH
HOW many of us actually know the extent of religious and cultural diversity in Malaysia? Well, not all of us unfortunately.
I was recently involved in Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita-Brickfields, a local campaign which aims to strengthen religious tolerance among Malaysians through arts.
The three-month project was an initiative under Kota Kita, a non-profit arts collective co-founded by Lew Pik-Svonn and Fahmi Reza.
The project involved 25 youths from different ethnicities and beliefs who worked together to promote unity through diversity.
Seventeen of the volunteer-participants aged from 18 to 30 underwent a series of workshops (research, mapping, photography and video) to produce brochures, videos and photography exhibitions featuring places of worship in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.
Our efforts culminated in the Have a Holy-Day: A Brickfields Walking Tour & Exhibition which took place a few weeks ago, with approximately 100 participants.
Reflecting on the past three months that I worked on this project, I realise that I had really looked forward to my weekends when the workshops were held.
Despite having to miss out on other events, I feel that the weekly commitment was ultimately worthwhile.
I learned a lot from the co-founders who have been actively involved in community work for the past decade. Of course, the experience of immersing myself in the cultural values around Brickfields also brought me sheer joy.
If not for this project, never would I have known the existence of a Taoist temple which accommodates a Hindu shrine as well.
Despite our claims of multi-culturalism, I believe that we are oblivious to the cultural diversity among our countrymen. The lack of inter-faith understanding in our society should be addressed with systematic community actions, such as Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita, if Malaysian unity is to be sustained.
Through this project I realised how a participatory programme is able to cultivate interest in other cultures and I believe that Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita has been successful as a stepping stone to continual inter-faith dialogue in this nation.