I just got back from a medical check up at the government Greentown Health Clinic in Ipoh. Thankfully all my tests were clear, and I certainly didn't test positive for anything (ganja included).
But anyway, as I was leaving, I noticed a Christmas tree in the clinic's lobby. Which was a rather nice nod to the season, though it is coming to a close. The sight sparked a chain of thought in my brain.
Why is a Christmas tree used, and not, say, a Nativity scene? (For those who don't know, it is a scene of the birth of Jesus in the manger, with the baby surrounded by Mary and Joseph and usually some donkeys, sheep and oxen)
Surely the Nativity scene is more meaningful and worthwhile than a Christmas tree? Or, God forbid, Santa Claus?
More to the point, why are the commercial and 'fun' aspects of religious celebrations highlighted by government agencies, the mass media and private corporations instead of the spiritual aspect?
One reason why many Malaysian youth grow up with little understanding of different religions is because in each festival, these bodies emphasize the Christmas carols, rendang, floats, and kolam, all without mentioning the meaning behind these symbols. Some symbols, like Christmas trees, have little connection to the festival's true meaning, and contribute to the fact that many young people see these festivals as occasions for wild partying, noise and excessive alcohol.
The more we refuse to show the spirituality of religious festivals, the more parties like this we will have.
Some, like Malaysia's Islamic clerics, would no doubt object to portraying the religious aspect of festivals in government buildings or the mass media. No doubt they would say that this will overshadow Islam and confuse the nation's Muslims. These statements make no sense, because Islamic religious leaders could also emphasize the spirituality of their festivals, instead of letting radio stations play endless ads about rendang and ketupat.
Moreover, with 60% of Malaysians being Muslim, how would this overshadow Islam? And Malaysia's Muslims surely have a strong enough faith that they won't be confused just by a Nativity scene, or a portrayal of Rama killing the demon Ravana
The display of such religion-centred art during religious festivals would promote interreligious understanding and unity.
If we are truly 1Malaysia, and we really support multiculturalism in Malaysia, then, showing everyone the true meaning of Christmas, Deepavali, Hari Raya, and Wesak Day will not harm anyone except those with backward brains. Surely we have grown up enough?