The events of 9 July 2011 will remain vivid in the minds of many Malaysians, including mine. We witnessed numerous people from all walks of life, different race, religion, and ages coming together. People were shakinghands and making friends…people who have never met each other were locking arms and walking together. Race, religion, age, status didn’t matter to any one ofthem. People were helping one another and encouraging one another.
What struck me was that despite the fact that there were parties who tried to divide the people, most Malaysians were undeterred by the differences. What we witnessed was Malaysians coming together and nothing else mattered.
If Jesus were to use a modern day example to describe tothe lawyer who asked him, “Who is my neighbour?”, this would be an excellent parable. For many of us, our concept of being a neighbour is limited to the people that I can get along with, people who are in the same class as I am, those who share a common faith. The filter that we use to gauge our neighboursis predominantly looking for commonalities.
However, 9 July 2011 has more to teach us than the call for fair election processes. It teaches us that we can be united despite the differences we carry with us either because it has been passed from one generation to the next or has been told to us by some leaders. Since then, I have come across some parents who told me that they took their children along to not only tell them that Malaysians can be united but to show them and let themhave an experience of what it means to be united. To them I say, kudos.
Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) also have much to learn from this. Our BECs can be the catalyst to show to all that our understandingof community goes beyond the fact that we come together because of the common baptism we share. There are many opportunities in our neighbourhood for thesecommunities to reach out and include as many people as possible irrespective ofrace, religion, or age. The word ecclesial in BEC is certainly more thanjust Christians. In classical Greek, an ekklesia was an assembly. Withthe introduction of Christianity, this term was adopted to mean Church. If weare to return to its original meaning, then every neighbourhood is an assembly– an assembly of the people of God.
Therefore, my neighbour is not just the one whom I share afence with, but every person who comes into my path. This is certainly difficult but as 9 July 2011 showed us, when we put aside our differences and humble ourselves, no matter where you come from or what baggage each one of us carries, you are my neighbour…. Come let us walk together!