19 February 2014
Book review: Berdialog dengan Gereja
By Chris Chong
CHRISTIAN-Muslim relations in the past few years have been sorely tested over the Allah controversy. Into this breach comes the unlikely figure of Mujahid Rawa. Since 2010, the Member of Parliament (Paris Buntar) has been involved in a series of dialogues with churches in an attempt to heal strained relations between both faith communities. Coming from PAS with its Islamist credentials, he comes across as a surprising agent of reconciliation.
In Berdialog dengan Gereja: Sebuah travelog kedamaian (Dialogue with the Church: A travelogue of peace), Mujahid gives an account of how he became involved in interfaith dialogue as well as the events and people involved. He shares an insider's account of how the PAS leadership formulated their position with regards to the Allah controversy. He also gives, from a Muslim perspective, reasons why Christians should be allowed to use Allah.
However, the most interesting parts of the book are his reflections on dialogue and peace. Noting that Malaysia is a diverse society where misunderstanding and conflict can arise, Mujahid believes that the way to peace between faith communities lies in dialogue to clear misunderstandings and misconceptions. But for dialogue to happen, there must first be a willingness to build friendships that transcend differences and the desire to bring goodwill to the process.
As Christians, we too are called to bring the shalom of God to our little corner of the earth. In Jeremiah 29:7, we are reminded to "... work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you ..." and in the Beatitudes, we are taught that the peacemakers shall be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).
Let's not be distracted by who Mujahid is and the party he represents, but consider the challenge his book throws at Christians. Can we be honest and ask ourselves if it isn't the prevalent Christian mindset to shun interfaith dialogue? More importantly, can we afford to shun such dialogue in light of Jesus' call for us to be peacemakers?
Should we not take part in bringing shalom to our beloved nation by joining hands with people of other religions including Muslims in dialogue and friendship? I recommend all Christians to read this book and ponder its message.
An English edition of this book is in the works and should be in bookstores soon.
Chris Chong is a university lecturer and a member of the Friends in Conversation group on faith and community issues.