Penang Global Ethic Project Launch
World Religions - Universal
Peace - Global Ethic
10.00am, Tuesday, 7 February 2006
USM ABN-AMRO Arts & Cultutal Centre, Lebuh Pantai
published in New Sunday Times, Malaysia,
Sunday, 26 February 2006
A Living Motif of Peace
an extraordinary scheme, George Town's "street of harmony"
is being made into a symbol to foster peace through religious
neighbourliness, as a pilot project to be replicated throughout
just ten minutes walk of each other, along a charming idyllic
street in George Town, lie some of the oldest - and grandest -
religious monuments in the country.
along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling (also known by its old colonial
name, Pitt Street) is Penang's oldest Christian church built in
1818, oldest Hindu Temple (founded in 1833), as well as a historic
Chinese temple and Muslim mosque (both 1801).
up, along the adjoining Cannon Street, stands a century old complex
of the Khoo Kongsi, widely considered to be the most magnificent
Chinese clan temple in the region.
precinct, a historic place where migrant people of different religions
have lived for more than 200 years, has today become a powerful
symbol that is drawing interest from far corners of the world.
have never seen anything like this before anywhere in the world,"
says Peter Schier, a representative of Berlin-based Konrad Adenaeur
was in Kosovo some time ago. At the centre of the town is a mosque,
opposite it is an Orthodox Christian Church and beside that a
Roman Catholic Church.
they never promoted the idea of togetherness
And today these
buildings have to be heavily guarded!"
peace activists like Schier, the sight of people living so unassumingly
at ease around George Town's religious places, in the very manner
communities did decades ago, has proven to be a moving experience.
Schier has latched on to the cultural and historic significance
the little precinct holds.
whole street is now being presented as powerful living motif around
which a range of activities to promote peace is being held.
Together with like-minded locals, including Malaysian Interfaith
Network chairman Datuk Anwar Fazal and heritage researcher Khoo
Salma Nasution, Schier has helped draw up a month-long series
of programmes on religious harmony.
the Penang Global Ethic Project, the remarkable venture is organised
by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
want to show how unique this street is in the world," explains
want to promote this as a special place where people of all nations,
ages, religious and ethnic backgrounds can learn about traditions
of peaceful religious co-existence."
is precincts like this, with its marvellous heritage ambience,
that so captivated UNESCO to consider the entire inner city to
be made a World Heritage Site.
is around this street that many of the island's early communities
continue to thrive with their trades and lifestyles in romantic
defiance against the waves of industrialisation and development
to have swept other parts of Penang over the years.
vibrant and colourful has the place been that Penang's Lieutenant
Governor of the early 1800s, George Leith, went as far as to write:
"There is not, probably, any part of the world where, in
so small a space, so many different people are assembled together,
or so great a variety of languages spoken,"
the vibrant ethnic diversity can be measured today by the colourful
abundance of festivals.
are unique to Penang, having evolved locally over the decades.
Some are inherited purely from the old migrant communities.
places in the world can parade a booming Hindu procession with
hundreds of devotees beside a packed street-side Chinese opera.
still can boast to hear the ethereal strains of a Muslim prayer
call resonate through where Taoist devotees shuffle calmly with
joss sticks in age-old shrines.
what makes the riot of culture so enchanting is the unmistakable
air of authenticity in it.
festivals have persevered over the years with the same spirit,
ceremony and ritual as observed during George Town's days of yore.
enough, George Town is blessed with more than a hundred spiritual
sites built by different ethic migrants.
so the idea behind the project is not just about having exhibitions,
but about actually exploring different cultures and places, and
thereby inculcating a practical approach towards religion.
are looking at this as a pilot project that can be replicated
for other parts of the world," says Dr Choong Sim Poey, chairman
of the Penang Heritage Trust.
include a charming guided tour for tourists and local residents
through walkabouts along the "street of harmony".
tour is intended to encourage sharing of knowledge about the history,
heritage and values represented by the landmarks and places of
programme has also gotten schools and children involved by conducting
guided activities at the different religious sites.
inner city provides a fine case study of a how a common built
environment can effectively unite disparate cultures of faith.
M. Khalid, founder of the UK-based Islamic Foundation for Ecology
and Environmental Sciences sees the common environment all the
world's religions reside in as a mutual starting point for seeking
we like it or not we are in the same environment - one cannot
get away from that," he says.
faiths have always been environmental in that most of their traditions
and aspects of worship are based on expressions of the natural
world. That is our common starting point.
were not all born in Mecca, Brindavan, Lumbini or Jerusalem."
in spite of all our differences, the basis of our existence has
been laid in our empathy with the natural world."
is in using such a mutual, charismatic neighbourhood that the
project is hopes to promote common ethical values. These in turn
can form the basis for peace and dialogue amongst the world's
major religious communities.
project is unique. It is the first of its kind in the world,"
are living in a globalising world with so many societies and religions
coexisting together. And Penang is a model.
is like a place where the future of humankind is already there
in all its compositions."
In conjunction with the Penang Global Ethic
project, a forum on 'Religion and Peace' will be held at the USM
ABN-AMRO Arts and Cultural Centre, Beach Street, at 10am on March
exhibition of world religions is being held at the USM ABN-AMRO
Arts and Cultural Centre, Beach Street (in Malay), at Penang Town
Hall (in English) and at the Alpha Utara Gallery, China Street
exhibition featuring Arabic and Chinese Calligraphy is also being
held at Galeri Pinang, Dewan Seri Pinang till March 10.
details on all activities visit www.globalethicpenang.net.