Religious unity at its best in Miri

MIRI: Christians and Muslims at a church and a mosque built next to each other in Lutong bazaar north of Miri City held a joint Christmas gathering in what has become a very special tradition.

The event yesterday, which reflects the special multi-racial bond between people of all faiths, was attended by Muslims from Masjid An Naim and Christians from the Anglican Good Shepherd Church Lutong and Catholic, SIB and Methodist churches.

The Christmas celebration was held in the compound of the Good Shepherd Church.

Masjid An Naim and Good Shepherd Church stand less than 100m apart in Lutong bazaar located about 10km north of Miri City.

The managements of the mosque and the church share the parking lots.

On Fridays, the church opens its gate to allow Muslims to park their vehicles during prayer time.

On Sundays, the mosque in turn opens its gate to allow Christian church-goers to use its car park.

On special occasions like Christmas and Hari Raya events, Muslims and Christians will come together for joint gatherings.

Yesterday, imam Mohd Zulkifli Mohd Adnan, the mosque management and mosque leaders, Pastor Donald Jute and church leaders enjoyed halal food prepared by the church.

Sarawak Assistant Minister for Communications Datuk Lee Kim Shin was the guest of honour along with Sarawak United Peoples Party secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting and leaders from the Buddhist, Tua Pek Kong and Miri Indian Association.

Lee said the state government was pleased to see such great racial and religious unity in Miri and Sarawak.

"This is unequalled in any part of the country. Where else can we find churches and mosques and temples sharing facilities with each other and sharing food and fellowship like families.

"We must preserve this at all costs because it is a unique treasure.

"Being able to enjoy such sincere religious and racial acceptance is priceless," he said.

Pastor Donald said the mosque and church have been sharing car parks for the past 50 years.

"It has become a way of life for us to share our car parks and meet for gatherings. We are just one big family," he said.

Mosque chairman Ithnaini Bohari said it has become natural for the Muslims here to share whatever facilities and occasions with Christians and people of other faiths.

"It is so natural that it is already part of our daily life," he said.

Lee said the mosque and the church had asked for funds from the government to expand the parking lots.

He said he would help seek funds for the project so that it could be done soon.

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