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Foreign Minister, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (5th from left) speaks to Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Julian Leow Beng Kim (5th from right) after the photo session during the Christian Federation of Malaysia Hi-Tea event in conjunction of Christmas day celebration in Kuala Lumpur. -NSTP/Aizuddin Saad

KUALA LUMPUR: Two of the country’s most prominent religious leaders have called on the people to continue preserving and defending the racial and religious harmony which makes Malaysia unique compared to other nations.

Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim and Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri made the plea in conjunction with Christmas celebrations, today.

The two men also said that they pray that common sense will prevail among religious leaders, whom they hope will be spurred to promote ways to further strengthen unity among Malaysia’s diverse racial, cultural and religious communities.

“We have been wishing each other (festive greetings), visiting each other's homes during our respective religious and cultural celebrations.

“I did some (research). If we count all the holidays at the federal and state levels, Malaysia has about 18 holidays a year, making us top five in the world (in terms of the number) of holidays.

“It will indeed be a sad day in the history of our country if we can no longer even wish ‘Merry Christmas’ to Christians or ‘Happy Deepavali’ or ‘Deepavali Valthukkal’ to Hindus...

“We pray that common sense will prevail amongst religious leaders to promote more ways of strengthening the bonds of friendship among Malaysians, and not drive us further apart,” said Leow in his speech at the Christian Federation of Malaysia’s Hi-Tea reception here, today.

The event was attended by Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok.

Zulkifli, who was unable to attend the function, had prepared a special message entitled “Peaceful Co-Existence the Right Way”, which was read out by Leow.

“Peaceful co-existence implies the ability of mankind to live in harmony.

“As human beings, we need to have a solid understanding that diversity and plurality of cultures, ethnicities and religions are part of God's creation of the universe and of mankind.

“Existing peacefully with (non-Muslims) is an essential Islamic principle that is clearly stated in many Quranic verses.

“There is no contradiction between Islam and devotion to civil society, social culture, and co-existence with others. And that has been practiced by Muslims throughout history,” said Zulkifli.

Saifuddin, meanwhile, called on Malaysians to celebrate Christmas in the spirit of liking each other, regardless of race and religion.

“A more progressive understanding of ‘knowing each other’ is not only about tolerance, respect and acceptance, but about liking the other,” he said.

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