Many people across the world will be celebrating Christmas – and Malaysia is no exception. On Christmas Day, I will have the pleasure of taking part in a tea party with members of the Christian community to mark Christmas and listen to their views.
Malaysia is of course a majority Muslim country but Christians do play a full and welcome role in our society – especially in Sabah and Sarawak. Some people may not realise that around one in 10 Malaysians count themselves as Christian.
The roots of this can be found in our country’s rich and varied history. Nestorian Christianity was brought to the region by Persian and Turkish traders as far back as the 7th century. The Portuguese then brought Catholicism here in the 15th century, followed by the Dutch bringing Protestantism in the 17th century.
As most readers will know, since becoming Prime Minister I have placed a lot of emphasis on the unifying concepts of 1Malaysia and the Global Movement of the Moderates. These concepts are partly about establishing a dialogue, which is important, but I am also determined that they lead to real action too.
That’s why I visited Pope Benedict XVI last year, and Malaysia formally established diplomatic relations with Vatican City. I very much enjoyed meeting Pope Benedict XVI in person, and now look forward to following his tweets! Another step forward came last week as the government announced that it will ensure that any Malaysian Christian who wishes to travel to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage is able to do so.
We are very fortunate that Malaysia continues to enjoy peaceful relations between different faiths and races. This doesn’t happen without our continued efforts to keep it that way, so I will always be open to hearing any hopes, concerns and ideas that members of the Christian community may have.
As Christmas comes in the last week of the year, it is also a good time to reflect on what has been and will be. I will come on to this subject in my next blog. In the meantime, I’d like to once again wish all Malaysian Christians a very Merry Christmas.