Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Tamil schools not allowed to take holiday for Ponggal???

January 9th, 2013
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Another ridiculous move by the MOE if the news below is true. Previously, Tamil schools can take special holiday for Ponggal which falls in mid January.  And surely no one in the right mind will put a day before Thaipusam as replacement class! What in the world are these guys having for food? Is this only in Kedah or nationwide directive?

THE Indian community is unhappy over the Education Ministry’s decision not to allow Tamil schools to take a day off as a special holiday for the Ponggal festival which falls on Jan 14, reported Tamil Nesan.

It quoted Sungai Petani MIC division deputy chairman T.H. Subra as saying that education officers did not understand the significance of the festival.

He was also unhappy that Jan 26 had been marked as a school day to replace additional holidays given for the Chinese New Year celebration.

“This is unsuitable as most Hindu children will be busy preparing for Thaipusam, which falls on Jan 27,” he said, adding that until last year, Tamil schools were given the flexibility to take three days off a year for religious festivals.

He urged education officers to be fair to all communities.

source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2013/1/9/nation/12549401&sec=nation

Restrictions for Christians to visit Holy Land removed

December 19th, 2012
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I didn’t know that Malaysian Christians were subject to such stringent requirements in order to visit their holy land until the issue was highlighted early this year or so. Sounds like unfair or even religious discrimination to me.

Previously the rules were quite tight such as government imposed a quota of 700 pilgrims per year, with any one church only allowed to send one group of 40. Visits were also limited to 10 days and pilgrims were only allowed one visit every three years.

But this changed last month as government had cancelled most of the requirements (visit limit extended to 21 days from 10).

Maybe its part of the “transformasi”. Maybe its due to election nearing. Maybe to show government is sensitive. Maybe due to security concerns. Maybe due to boycott of Israel. Maybe “whatever you want to think of it”.

 

The Najib administration has rescinded its quotas, age floor and other travel limits imposed last year on Christian Malaysians wishing to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, say church leaders and a tour agent.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s move, ahead of Christmas and national polls, is seen as a bid to win back dwindling support from the minority community that barely make up 10 per cent of the country’s 28 million-strong population but is regarded as a swing vote group in urban areas and crucial to the battle to reclaim the middle ground.

“Yes! Granted us all the concessions we asked for,” Rev Hermen Shastri told The Malaysian Insider in a text message yesterday.

Shastri, the secretary-general Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM), had previously criticised Putrajaya for “always shifting the goal posts” during meetings between government officials and Christian leaders, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported in July this year.

Christian Malaysians had voiced their unhappiness with Putrajaya after churches were allowed to send only up to 20 pilgrims to Jerusalem a year besides limiting their stay there to a week, among several constraints, acts they saw as further erosion of their religious freedom guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god.

While Malaysia bans travel to Israel, the government had previously shut an eye to Christian pilgrims journeying to the historic city regarded as holy to three of the world’s main religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

An official with the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) confirmed the umbrella body — which represents 90 per cent of the country’s nearly 2.8 million Christians — had last month received a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office informing that the government had relaxed the rules to allow Christian Malaysians to enter Israel.

“Taking into account the needs of Christian Malaysians, the Home Ministry has amended the religious pilgrimage rules to Israel as follows,” wrote Wong Nai Chee, political secretary to the prime minister in the letter dated November 28 sighted by The Malaysian Insider.

In its list, the government removed the quota on the number of Christian pilgrims per year; the number of pilgrims per church group; where Christian pilgrims can go in Israel; and the frequency of their pilgrimages; as well as extended the stay in Israel to 21 days from seven previously; and cancelled the 18-year-old minimum age requirement.

The new guidelines were effective from October 30, Wong stated in the letter.

According to the CFM official who declined to be named, it was the first time the government had issued any travel guidelines to Christian Malaysian pilgrims, a point backed by a local tour agent who has been organising travel arrangements to Jerusalem on behalf of churches for the last 15 years.

“Previously, the only black-and-white we received were when they rejected our applications,” said Inbam Solomon of World Discovery Travel.

She told The Malaysian Insider that prior to 2010, Christians in this Muslim-majority country have been freely performing pilgrimages to the holy city despite Malaysia having no diplomatic ties with Israel.

Then in January 2010, the government banned pilgrimages to the region, ostensibly due to heightened security risks posed by the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

When Putrajaya finally lifted the ban in April 2011, it tightened travel rules for Christian Malaysian pilgrims, Solomon related.

Her agency, which had helped organise pilgrimage tours for an average 2,000 Christian Malaysians before the 2010 clamp, saw the numbers severely cut by nearly 90 per cent.

Churches were also required to deal directly with the Home Ministry for permission to travel to Jerusalem, a role that had been performed previously by travel agencies, she said.

Christians were also subjected to additional scrutiny from the Home Ministry, including the police, and were required to submit their baptism certificates or endorsement letters from their respective churches to prove they were genuine followers of the faith, Solomon added.

Word of the government’s new travel guidelines have already spread among Christians, who told The Malaysian Insider they were heartened by the government’s decision.

“We are grateful we can once again go to worship in the Holy Land,” Catholic priest Father Lawrence Andrew said when contacted.

Andrew, who edits the country’s sole Catholic paper, had run a short news report on the new guidelines in last Sunday’s edition of Herald.

source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/putrajaya-lifts-curbs-on-christian-pilgrims-to-israel/

Christmas Deco vs Deepavali Deco

December 14th, 2012
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 Its wonderful to see grand Christmas decorations at our various shopping malls. It attracts people from all walks of life to take photos and enjoy the decorations. What more with school holidays and year end sales to attract more crowd. One can easily spend a whole day in shopping malls without noticing the time flying.

Unfortunately, the same doesn’t happen during Deepavali. If the management of these malls have the similar thinking as for Christmas, then surely they can do similar wonders that attract crowds from various background. Usually, some measily “kolam” is done, and that’s about it. Come on, a very famous and important religious festival only represented by “kolam”?

Not forgetting, we also have plenty of tourists from India (about 700k in 2011), not including Indian diaspora countries. You can put some effort to attract them to your mall as well.

Yeah, these are business entities and they have their own business objectives, i.e. bottom lines to worry about.  But if there’s not Christmas deco, you think November/December sales will drop? No tourists will visit malls? So, what’s the logic for such elaborate decoration, and comparatively zilch for Deepavali?

Read the article below on Christmas decorations. Do you think only Christians appreciate them or that only Christians will shop during this time? No right?  Probably if you allocate about quarter of the budget from Christmas deco for Deepavali deco, can do quite a lot. You can even initiate collaboration with various IPTs for their students to help with decorations and displaying some creative stuff.

Or are you waiting for government to provide some incentives? Maybe there should some enforced ruling to ensure shopping malls also participate in nation building?

It all boils down to mentality. Yeah, you can say “its just some deco stuff, we have other more critical things to focus on la for the community”. Well, marginalisation starts in such small matters, is my opinion.

 

<b>Taking flight:</b> Santa’s sleigh is placed in front of Suria KLCC Lake Symphony fountain.

Taking flight: Santa’s sleigh is placed in front of Suria KLCC Lake Symphony fountain.

THE time of the year has arrived for shopping centres to go all out to usher Christmas and New Year.

Quick trips to the malls will surely get you get in the mood for Santa Claus, shiny baubles, reindeers and gifts.

Aside from giant Christmas trees decorated with colourful trinkets , most malls go the extra mile by creating eye-popping themed surroundings.

Step into “Santa’s North Park” at Berjaya Times Square where shoppers are greeted with large toy soldiers, which lined up the gantry to a 40ft Christmas tree.

The main tree is flanked by clusters of smaller trees decorated with ornaments, pine cones, berries and figs.

Shoppers can also explore the Lower Ground concourse area, done up to reflect Santa’s lush sanctuary and its magical creatures.

Meanwhile, shoppers can “watch” Santa and his elves at work in Suria KLCC.

Its decor shows Santa checking a long list of wishes with a help of a machine with exposed cogs and mechanical works.

<b>Super trumpeteers:</b> Large angels set to usher Christmas at Starhill Gallery.
Super trumpeteers: Large angels set to usher Christmas at Starhill Gallery.

There is also an impressive sleigh with reindeers in front of the KLCC Lake Symphony fountain while Frosty the Snowman stand guard at the Ampang Entrance and Rudolph the Reindeer is at the Park Entrance.

Mid Valley Megamall’s “All I Want for Christmas” theme saw its Centre Court transformed into a country-like atmosphere where a log cabin furnished with wreaths, a fire pit and surrounded by Christmas trees.

Patrons can also take pictures by a wooden barn complete with a watermill, hand-carved bird houses and a 40ft Christmas tree.

Over at Bangsar Village, shoppers have a glimpse into the past as mock Victorian shopfronts are constructed at the concourse area to commemorate Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.

Meanwhile, Bangsar Village II has an unusual Christmas tree, which is made of a combination of life-sized Victorian streetlamps and 7,000 pieces of used newspaper rolled into cones to form five gigantic wreaths with giant baubles suspended from its roof.

<b>Sparkly:</b> The Gardens Mall puts up a white Christmas decoration with themed "Crystal Paradise".
Sparkly: The Gardens Mall puts up a white Christmas decoration with themed “Crystal Paradise”.

Inspired by medieval castles, Sungei Wang Plaza’s “The Big Band Christmas” is set to thrill shoppers with a castle where toy soldiers stand guard on balconies.

At the bottom of the stage is a fountain decorated with red poinsettia flowers while gold ribbons and Christmas trees embellished with ornaments and lights are also placed at the stage with a blizzard spray on each door to create a Christmas dream castle for shoppers.

At The Gardens Mall, shoppers can expect a white Christmas where trees made of glass are placed along the Ground Floor with sparkly chandeliers and ornaments hanging above them.

Lastly, angels take centrestage at Starhill Gallery where 29 three-metre tall angels are displayed inside the mall and at its entrance.

The decor is complemented by 1,000 decorative stars and 5,000 box fairy lights, which will be up until Jan 3, 2013.

It is indeed a season of love and joy as shoppers will find themselves immerse in the delightful mood of Christmas at the malls.

source: http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2012/12/14/central/12442227&sec=central

Community mapping project at Brickfields

October 18th, 2012
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 This is an interesting project by Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita and Kota Kita. I was surprised (or was I?) to read that “based on a survey they carried out among the participants, the majority had not entered places of worship other than their own”.  How true is this? I’ve been inside most places of worship except mosques. Had climbed the stairs inside the minaret of a mosque though…

I think there’s no genuine initiative to expose or teach about the various cultures to others. Mostly its one-sided only.

 

THE founders of Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita and volunteers took to the streets of Brickfields last weekend to carry out a community-mapping project to promote religious understanding between different faiths using the arts.

The project involved 17 volunteer-participants aged from 18 to 30 years old from different ethnicities and faiths. There were also four facilitators and two project coordinators project.

“For three months, from August to October, we explored the Brickfields community through a series of different workshops comprising research, photography and video. Through these workshops, we learned and discovered the many treasure troves and stories this small community has to offer,” co-founder and project manager Lew Pik-Svonn said.

They also produced educational materials such as Have a Holy-Day — a colourful booklet for self-guided walking tours to the places of worship in Brickfields.

Interesting sight: The participants stopping at a temple during the walking tour.
Interesting sight: The participants stopping at a temple during the walking tour.

“We felt it was important for people to know and understand different religions. Many cultures are also intertwined with religion. Misunderstandings happen when there is a shallow perception of other religions. We want to fill in this gap,” Lew said.

She said the community-mapping project in Brickfields was the first in a series of three. Their next destination is Tuaran in Sabah.

The organisers are from Kota Kita, non-profit arts collective with a mission to empower community members and enrich their relationship with the community. Their most notable project is Projek Chow Kit Kita, which was a similar community-mapping effort in Chow Kit.

The event also saw cultural performances from the Malaysian Indian Arts and Culture Association and a choir from the Tamil Methodist Church. Along the way, the participants had opportunities to sample food and observe photo and video exhibitions. In collaboration with Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita, Lew said they have also launched BrickfieldsEats (www.BrickfieldsEats.wordpress.com) which is a project to map the food found in Brickfields and their stories.

Welcome: Performers from the Malaysian Indian Arts and Culture Association.Welcome: Performers from the Malaysian Indian Arts and Culture Association.

Fahmi Reza, who is the co-founder and project designer of Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita, said based on a survey they carried out among the participants, the majority had not entered places of worship other than their own.

“What is worse is that they do not even ask questions. We wanted to approach this serious subject on a lighter note where they can ask questions and learn from community members. If you observe the situation in our schools nowadays, there is so much segregation. How does one know the other person’s culture and faith without communication? ” he asked.

Projek Rumah Ibadat Kita consists of 24 people from different ethnicities and faiths who want to promote their belief in a society that embraces diversity.

The community-mapping tour started outside YMCA along Jalan Tun Sambathan 4 with more than 100 people attended the three-hour walking tour which covered visits to places of worship that included the Orthodox Syrian Church, Church of Our Lady Fatima, Madrasathul Gouthiyyah Surau, Tamil Methodist Church, Seng Hong Temple, Sri Sakthi Vinayagar Temple, Buddhist Maha Vihara, Sri Krishna Temple, Sri Maha Muneswarar Temple, Sri Kandaswamy Kovil and Sree Veera Hanuman Temple.

 

source: http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2012/10/17/central/12172660&sec=central

DBKL disallow decoration at MHS event

September 3rd, 2012
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This is quite surprising. I remember reading interview with new mayor where he talked about karma and all (sounded like a well-read and understanding guy), and then this news appears on FMT. Decoration like kolam is quite common even in shopping centers!  Banana trees are usually put at the entrance – can see it at Hindu weddings especially at temples. Wonder what’s the reason for DBKL’s actions. Is it because of cleanliness factors or there are considered religious symbols?  Or perhaps MHS wasn’t aware of such rules?

Senator S Ramakrishnan of the DAP today demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak over Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) decision to disallow cultural decorations to be put up in their hall for an event by Malaysia Hindu Sangam.

“Najib must investigate why an event officiated by his representative was marred by DBKL’s stupid act which hurts the feeling of delegates,” said Ramakrishnan in a press statement today.

“It is totally unbecoming of DBKL since they are under the Federal Territories and Urban Well Being Ministry that has a Hindu deputy minister,” said Ramakrishnan.

He was commenting on DBKL’s decision to disallow MHS from decorating the venue – a DBKL hall – with kolam, a colourful rice based decoration, and banana trees in conjunction with a conference which was held yesterday.

MHS had organised a conference to launch temple worship guidelines yesterday at the DBKL training institute hall in Cheras.

The conference was attended by about 800 delegates from all over the country with PM’s representative honouring the event.

The hall was rented for RM4,600 and an additional RM300 paid for DBKL staff manning the hall for the event.

The conference was supposed to be officiated by Najib but was subsequently delegated to Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam.

Ramakrishnan also lashed out at DBKL for their lack of sensitivity.

“Why is DBKL afraid to allow such simple cultural decorations?

“DBKL is a public body that serves all Malaysians, so why did it abstain MHS from putting up biodegradable and easily disposal cultural decorations?

“If it is a rule not to allow any decorations by any user of the hall then that should have been made known at the time of hall booking and not one day before the event?

“This act of DBKL shows how they look down on cultural practices of Indian Malaysians,” said Ramakrishnan.

source: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2012/09/02/dbkl-lacking-cultural-sensitivities/