A Muslim group's recent visit to a Catholic Church in Malaysia is being called a breakthrough in grassroots interreligious dialogue.
On October 14, ten Muslims sat in the pews at Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Kuching. Several Church sources told UCA News they were sure this had not happened in the history of the Archdiocese of Kuching and had not heard of it happening anywhere else in Malaysia either.
Malaysia is a majority-Muslim country. Out of a population of 26 million people, 60 percent are Muslim, 19 percent are Buddhist, 9 percent are Christians and 6 percent are Hindu.
Christians and Muslims commonly believe that Muslims are forbidden even to enter a church. Led by Shah Kirit Kakakul Govindji of the Islamic Information and Services Foundation, the Muslim visitors initiated the visit themselves. Shah Kirit explained that the purpose of the visit was to discover similarities and common traditions shared by Muslims and Christians, and to respectfully "agree to disagree" on differences.
Archbishop John Ha Tiong Hock of Kuching supported the visit.
After Mass the parish priest invited the visitors and the parish council to breakfast and a session of interreligious dialogue. The Muslim visitors asked about the various denominations of Christianity, training for the Catholic priesthood, the Church's ministries and apostolic work, and Christ's Second Coming.
One parish council member said the meeting created "a sense of amazement."
At the request of the parish, Shah Kirit promised to send them English-language copies of the Qu'ran. The two groups have discussed a reciprocal visit by Catholics to a mosque.