#Fast4Malaysia in Johor Baru

It happened in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Penang and Kuching and this Ramadan, #Fast4Malaysia was brought to Johor Baru for the first time.

One for the album: #Fast4Malaysia in Johor Baru
Also known as #Puasa4Malaysia, this event in JB was jointly organized by Malaysians for Malaysia (M4M) and International Women’s Peace Group Malaysia (IWPGM).

Weeks ahead, details of the event was shared on social media and interested guests were asked to reply to confirm their participation.

The response in JB was overwhelming and even on the day of the event, replies were still pouring in but had to be declined as the capacity of the event venue was already stretched to its maximum!

But what is #Fast4Malaysia?

In 2009, a group of activists including M4M founder, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, came up with the idea to promote peace and unity by urging Malaysians from all race and faith groups to experience fasting for a day.

M4M founder, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir
in her video address screened at the event
The #Fast4Malaysia campaign was created in response to the prevailing tensions and sentiments in the community.

By encouraging everyone to fast for the peace of our nation, this campaign aimed to foster unity and a sense of belonging through a better understanding of each other’s cultural and religious practices.

As guests arrived in the event hall, there was a sense of celebration as people from different races, faiths and walks of life gathered with a feeling of an optimistic future in Malaysia Baru.

The organisers distributed miniature national flags and placards designed with positive and encouraging phrases that urged guests to embrace these values as they posed for photos displaying them.

A few words from IWPGM President, Woo Sow Pheng
Among the special guests at the event were Member of the Johor State Executive Council, Liow Cai Tung, State Assemblyman for Stulang, Andrew Chen Kah Eng and Thomas Fann, social activist and chairperson of ENGAGE, a non-governmental organization that focuses on democracy, defending human rights and promoting social justice.

IWPGM President, Woo Sow Pheng, said #Fast4Malaysia in Johor Baru was their effort to bring Malaysians together to help each other better understand and respect the practices of fasting in the Muslim faith.

She explained that fasting from dawn to dusk, was just one of the five pillars of the faith and this was not only about denying the body of food and drink.

Guests at a section of the Ramadan buffet
The aim of the fast was to demonstrate submission to God and to keep the mind focused on a spiritual plane. This involved the challenge of avoiding ill speech, loss of temper, arguments and malicious behavior.

She commented that #Fast4Malaysia was a very special learning experience for non-Muslims. Her sentiments were echoed by M4M core member, Anna Koh, who admitted that it was a personal challenge for her to fast for a day.

As an encouragement to work together for a better Malaysia to benefit our future generations, Woo quoted the words of the nation’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman who said:

We must always think first of Malaysia, of the national need and least of ourselves… Everyone must try to help and see that the people are one-minded, with loyalty and one aim, to make Malaysia – the land we love – a happy abode for all of us.

If we can do this then we can guarantee liberty, security, prosperity and happiness for the future.”

After Koh presented the welcome address, guests also heard encouraging words by M4M founder, Datin Paduka Marina, from her video address.

In closing, Datin Paduka Marina urged Malaysians to, “Be the change you want to see!”

YB Liow Cai Tung sharing her aspirations for Malaysia Baru
At the breaking-of-fast, guests of different races and faiths helped themselves to the food from the buffet spread and sat down to enjoy the meal together in a spirit of unity.

Guests later heard from the newly elected political personalities, Liow Cai Tung and Andrew Chen, who spoke briefly about their aspirations for Malaysia Baru.

Meanwhile, M4M Johor Chapter representative, Dr Sharifah Halimah Jaafar, said that she longed for that day when all the races in Malaysia would be known as Malaysians.

She hoped that Malaysia will adopt the practice in China where the homeless and orphans are cared for by the motherland/government. When their documents stated that they are Chinese nationals who belong to their homeland, it does wonders to restore their self-esteem.

A reminder: Where are they?
She cited the example of how children from mixed-marriages were compelled to complete forms that required them to state their race. And because they cannot find a suitable category, they have no alternative but to tick the box for, Others/Lain-lain.

In our multi-racial community with a large population of mixed-marriages, it would be ideal if race no longer matters as the population is brought together under one category known as Malaysians.

In the next segment, guests were invited to share their thoughts about the new hope and change in the nation.

Thomas Fann, reminded about the four missing people
Among the speakers was Norani who suggested that this era was not just Malaysia Baru but a ‘Renaissance of Malaysia!’

To grow into a stronger nation, she said there was no room for speeches with hatred content and urged everyone to be responsible by setting a good example and to do their part to create borderless peace.

In his moving appeal, Thomas Fann reminded everyone that four people were still missing and expressed his desire to work towards a closure for these cases.

He outlined the series of events that took place on February 13, 2017 when Pastor Raymond Koh went missing and the tip-offs he received about three others who were also missing since November 2016.

Fann was encouraged to see the restoration of public institutions reported in the daily news and while a great deal needed to be done to rebuild the nation, he was assured that Malaysia would again become an economic powerhouse in the region.

"Be the change you want to see!" Photo by Eddey Suresh of The Iskandarian, featuring
[Left to Right] Shirley Lee, K K Lew and Yours Truly, at #Fast4Malaysia in JB
The event closed on an encouraging note as Dr Zaliha Mustafa announced that the Tabung Harapan or Hope Fund, recorded a total sum of RM52 million so far.

When the proverbial ‘hat’ was passed around, guests contributed generously in a practical demonstration of their love for the nation.

The collection which totaled at RM2,668 would be sent to Tabung Harapan on behalf of the #Fast4Malaysia event in JB.

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