EORGE TOWN - Some 30 people came together in a show of religious tolerance by walking down Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling - known locally as Harmony Street for its four ancient houses of worship, ancestral halls and shrines.
Led by Star Media Group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai, the group strolled to St George's Church, Goddess of Mercy Temple, Kapitan Keling Mosque and the Sri Maha Mariamman temple.
They even dropped by the Lord Ganesha's shrine and Han Jiang Ancestral Temple of Penang Teochew Association.
Among others who took part were Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, humanitarian Datuk Anwar Fazal, scientist and educationist Lyana Khairuddin, youth activist James Tan, community activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi and author-entrepreneur Anas Zubedy.
They were accompanied on the two-hour walk by friends, families, officers from the National Unity and Integration Department, The Star journalists and tourist guide Teresa Pereira Capol, who gave a rich account of the street's history. Wong said the street was symbolic of what Malaysia had always been.
"Religious buildings that are lined up conveniently on one street for people of all faiths," he said, adding that the walk was mooted following a recent protest over a cross at a church in Taman Medan.
"Jalan Tun Sambanthan in Brickfields and Jalan Tokong Besi in Malacca are also like this. It has always been convenient for temples, churches and mosques to share the same street," he said.
The message, Wong added, was that Malaysia was "a land of religious harmony".
"All the major religions share common values. Their teachings expound merits like patience, love, understanding, anti-corruption and morality, which all of us value."
Saifuddin said he was saddened by recent events, adding that there were "pockets" of Malaysians who seemed polarised and intolerant against those of other faiths.
"I hope this walk will show the way towards religious freedom as guaranteed in our Federal Constitution," he said.
Political secretary Vincent Wong, who came on behalf of Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, said he was delighted by the walk.
"We are always looking for public and private sector partnership to promote national unity," he added.
The walk was organised by The Star and supported by GMM and the National Unity and Integration department under the Prime Minister's Department. A similar walk is being planned at Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur.