The imam cupped his palms before his face and invited the congregation to pray. “Oh Allah, return to us those who are lost. Oh, Allah, grant safe passage to MH370,” he said.
The prayer was not unusual. The setting was.
Gathered in the courtyard of a shopping mall in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, the Muslim religious leader was followed by a Christian reading from the Bible, then a Buddhist monk, a Hindu and finally a Taoist priest echoing the imam’s pleas before hundreds of worshippers in a largely Muslim country where religious intolerance has been on the rise.
The baffling mystery over the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people on March 8 has united Malaysia, a nation of numerous ethnicities, as never before in recent memory.
Tuesday night’s interfaith ceremony would have been inconceivable 11 days ago in the country of 28 million people where religious differences and bigotry have often been on open display. For Malaysians the sight of non-Muslims bowing respectfully as Imam Hilman Nordin said prayers from the rostrum was an incredible step toward unity. While there have been interfaith prayers before, they have always been without a Muslim representative.