Bishop Piong also urged everyone to commit toward saving the environment “that God created for us and for future generations.”
Only 9.2% of Malaysia’s population of 32.7 million are Christians.
According to the most recent census in 2010, up to 61.3% of the population practices Islam; 19.8%, Buddhism; 6.3%, Hinduism; 1.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, or other traditional Chinese philosophies and religions;. Less than 1% are members of other religious groups, including animists, Sikhs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Baha’is.
Almost all Muslims practice Sunni Islam of the Shafi’i school. Ethnic Malays, defined in the federal constitution as Muslims from birth, account for approximately 55% of the population.
Rural areas – especially in the peninsular east coast of the country – are predominantly Muslim, while the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo have relatively higher numbers of non-Muslims.
Two-thirds of the country’s Christian population inhabits the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.
Archbishop Wong said that over the years Malaysia has proven that “nation building is possible within a multi-ethnic and multi-religious setting.”
He admitted, however, that “the diverse cultures, demands and aspirations” of the population have “put pressure on interethnic and inter-religious relations, and have at times resulted in some tensions.”
“But, praise God, sense and a spirit of tolerance have kept us going,” he said.
The archbishop said the pandemic has deprived the people of Malaysia of the real celebration “that could have been manifested through fellowship and social interaction.”
Some Malaysian Christians would usually hold fasts ending on Malaysia Day, and pray for Muslims during the celebration to promote religious harmony and the celebration of religious freedom.
(Story continues below)
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Since 2000, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, with 2,800 member churches, has been organizing fasts.
Archbishop Wong said that the spike in COVID-19 cases and casualties in recent months has diverted and drained much of the people’s energy, resources and attention.
“Our public health system is stretched to the limit and frontliners are simply burnt out. The economic sector suffers tremendously, and many are hit by loss of job and income,” he noted.
He said that while people rely heavily on media technology, divisions in communities are “further widening,” especially between those in the rural and urban areas.
“Squabbles on the political front too are not contributing well to the already stressful situation,” said the Catholic Church leader.
“As disciples of Christ, we are called to be ‘salt of the earth and light of the world,’” he said, addressing the Christian population.”