IT was a memorable experience for me visiting Miri, Sarawak, recently as I saw for myself the uniqueness of a church and a mosque built 100m from each other in Lutong.
Masjid An Naim and Good Shepherd Church are located 10km north of Miri.
On Fridays, the church will open its gate to allow Muslims to park their vehicles during prayer time, while on Sundays, the mosque will reciprocate by opening its gate to allow churchgoers to use its car park.
The bond developed between them has won praises, including from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Reading and listening to numerous stories about them have made me eager to see the uniqueness myself.
It was on a Sunday last month that I dropped by at the car park in between Masjid An Naim and Good Shepherd Church to get a feel of the atmosphere.
What has been said is true and I was elated to see churchgoers walking towards their vehicles, which were parked at the compound of the mosque.
As they had just finished their Sunday service, some of them also greeted and chatted with me.
They said the mosque and church had been sharing car parks for the past 50 years and it reflected the multiracial bond of Sarawak.
That is why we could see Muslims parking their vehicles at the church compound on Fridays when they are performing their prayers.
During Christmas and buka puasa, Muslims and Christians also come together for festive gatherings.
The church will prepare halal food for their Muslim friends during such celebrations.
As someone who has been advocating unity and inter-religious understanding, it warms my heart to see the unity and harmonious atmosphere among the people of different faiths in Lutong, as it symbolises the unity that the people in Miri and Sarawak can be proud of.
It is not unusual for the mosque committee to share whatever facilities and occasions with Christians.
Hopefully, we can have more churches, mosques and temples sharing facilities with each other.
The fact that the Christians and Muslims can hold joint Christmas and Hari Raya gatherings and make it a special tradition shows that we are indeed one big family, in the true spirit of 1Malaysia.
It is my hope that Lutong could be a pace setter and an example for similar activities to be carried out in other parts of Malaysia to promote unity and harmony.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
Trustee, 1Malaysia Foundation