wendi

Singapore and Sarawak

Singapore and Sarawak

. . . whenever thou findest an opportunity thou dost travel and visit the believers, disseminating the fragrances of God . . . Bahai writings

`Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, said that the Baha’i `teachers must continually travel to all parts of the continent, nay, rather, to all parts of the world’. To fulfil this request, Moojan and I left the UK on 19 November to visit Baha’i communities in Asia and the Pacific.

Travel these days is really no more arduous than getting on a bus, although there are the inevitable hold-ups going through security checks at the airport. The main delay, however, was on the train from Sandy to Kings Cross!

A 12-hour flight took us from cold and wet England to hot and wet Singapore. Here we stayed with our friend Phyllis Ghim Lian Chew, her husband Yeo Yew Hock and their daughter Peta. Phyllis, a lecturer in linguistics, is the author of The Chinese Religion and the Baha’i Faith (George Ronald)  and, more recently, Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders (Routledge).

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They had arranged for us to speak at the new Baha’i Centre in Singapore the evening that we arrived, so, somewhat jetlagged after a 17 hour journey from home, we found ourselves sharing Baha’i ideas and news with 50+ new friends and a couple of Baha’is we had met elsewhere (a not unusual experience).

Singapore was only a stopover on our way to Sarawak, where we arrived on Saturday 21st. We were met by the amazing `Dr John’ (Fozdar), Knight of Baha’u'llah for Brunei, son of the famous Shirin Fozdar, father our own European Counsellor Shirin Fozdar Foroudi, and husband of the truly delightful Grete Fozdar. Their kind and generous hospitality to us has been overwhelming. Every day they have taken us to meet the Baha’is in Kuching and far out of the city into the jungle. Read about the Sarawak Baha’is here.

We attended 19 Day Feasts on successive nights in different parts of the Kuching, where two or more communities came together at each so we could meet as many Baha’is as possible. The Baha’is of this area are mostly Iban (who used to be called Sea Dayak)  and what beautiful, warm people they are. We were also guests at the commemoration of the 84th birthday of Sai Baba.

The highlights of our journey so far have been our visits to the Baha’i communities in Kampong Mujat and Kampong Selampit, villages of the Bidayuh (Land Dayak) people.

Kampong Mujat is well-known to travellers for its historic longhouse but what is well less well known is that most of the people living in it are Baha’is – first, second and third generation.

We walked up through the village to the imposing Baha’i Centre, built by the Baha’is themselves on a hill at the top of the village.

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The Baha’is in Kampong Mujat greeted us with traditional gongs and welcome dances

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The gongs are ancient and a sign of a community’s wealth. Each village or area has its own tunes and dances and the dancers wear their own particular dress. In Kampong Mujat the young men wore bells on their ankles; in Kampong Selampit the girls had bells on the hems of their dresses.

At each village we spoke to the Baha’is about the connection between the growth processes of the Baha’i communities, the Ruhi institute programmes which Baha’is all over the world are undertaking and our overall task of helping to build a new civilization – reminding ourselves that the Baha’i communities we are establishing are ones based on vibrant, learning, engaged spiritual people who are values and principle based and that the skills and habits we are learning — consultation, participation, meeting people in their own homes, educating children and young people, sharing spiritual ideas and practical service – are the very ones the new civilization needs.

At Kampong Mujat the Baha’is hosted a delicious lunch of rice, fish, vegetables and fruit, as well as chicken stew. The fruit included the durian which has a flavour and smell not to be missed (our air tickets from Singapore to Kuching had stamped on them in red `No durians allowed on this flight’, which may give you some idea of the strength of their odour). But most people find them delicious and I thought they were OK in small doses. Mostly we ate rambutans and another forest fruit that tasted like very sweet grapefruit to me.

The longhouse at Mujat is probably over a hundred years old and seems to be about 100 metres long, with many homes and common rooms all attached. It poured with rain while we sat on the bamboo walkway and we never felt a drop. All the people in these pictures are Baha’is.

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The village of Kampong Selampit is divided by a river, crossed by a ferry. We walked up through this village of about a thousand people to the Baha’i Centre, again at the top of the village on a hill. About 600 people in this village are Baha’is and again we were greeted with the gongs and dances of this village.

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The Baha’i Centre was full, as the Baha’is were also commemorating the Day of the Covenant, which began this evening. There were so many beautiful children present, we couldn’t resist having a picture of them.

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The evening concluded with a meal at a Baha’i-owned restaurant on the other side of the river – this time it had Chinese influences, with delicious fish from their own fish pools – and the ever-present durian, this time fried with onion and anchovies. I denied myself the pleasure this time!

Our translator for all this was Maria Peter, a Kuching Baha’i who works withe women, providing training in literacy and women’s advancement. She is a talented, warm and generous Iban woman who has travelled all over the area and knows everyone – they love her too!

Today we also had another very special privilege. We were invited by Kamal Fozdar to visit the new, nine-sided, Sarawak Parliament building.

Sarawak Parliament

As the owner of the construction company that built it, Kamal was able to take us into every room on every one of its nine floor, including the main chamber, the dining area and the rest area for members of Parliament. The art deco main entrance has a distinctive flavour of the Baha’i House of Worship in New Delhi, which Kamal also worked on,

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while the debating chamber has traditional themes woven together – with 9 pointed stars as the main, which also appears on the Sarawak flag.

Sarawak flag

The views from the ninth floor at the top of the building are stunning.

Tomorrow we go to Kampong Triboh.

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10 Responses to “Singapore and Sarawak”

  1. Thelmaon 26 Nov 2009 at 18:51

    Loved your description of your travels in Sarawak. I remember durians from Nepal (and the strong smell). Rambutans were delicious!

    And so many lovely Baha’is! Wish Leatherhead could be so lucky!

    What a fantastic parliament building. Shows how much the Baha’is can be an influence for good in their professions.

    And as for the 9 pointed star on the Sarawak flag … fantastic!

  2. LizKauaion 27 Nov 2009 at 03:11

    WOW!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Alexon 27 Nov 2009 at 03:25

    Loved reading of your travels here, Wendi. Truly inspirational!

  4. Lawrenceon 30 Nov 2009 at 16:33

    Thank you. So nice to see One People, One Planet.

  5. Gloriaon 07 Dec 2009 at 12:44

    Thanks Wendi; It was good to keep up with some of the places and events You and Moojan are visiting.
    Hope all is going well with PWR in Australia.
    Wish you luck

  6. franco ceccherinion 25 Mar 2010 at 00:00

    Hi Wendi

    great words your words inspires me when I am in bed right befor to fall asleep and right before the prayers and right before counting liras oops euros to donate to kheyriyyeh

    oh Allah and his Glory thanks to have you

    you are so inspirational

    Allah is really brighter than(any other light) just being bigger was not inuf AllahuAkbar is finished Allah (that black stone) is now brighter

    thanks for the money

  7. [...] The original link to Dr. Wendi Momen’s blog post of her visit to Sarawak is found here. [...]

  8. Monica L Solosaon 31 Mar 2010 at 05:17

    I pray to God that you will continue to grow in strength and preserve your faith throughout the world.

    A Christian
    Monica Lim Solosa

  9. Alfonso Hineson 17 Apr 2010 at 06:55

    WOW! You Baha’is are so powerful.

    “…..We were invited by Kamal Fozdar to visit the new, nine-sided, Sarawak Parliament building……..As the owner of the construction company that built it, Kamal was…”

    WOW! You mean just “One construction company” own just by “One Owner” can build such a hug moderning building????

    WOW! You Baha’i are amazing!

    If only “One Construction Company” owned by just “One Baha’i” can build such a new DUN Sarawak Parliament Building, we can understand that the Baha’is are not bossfull when they sing “We Are Building A New World”

    WOW!!

  10. Concerned Selangorianon 07 Apr 2011 at 13:43

    Tasik Permai high-cost land titles;
    ==========================
    Burdening the fellow poor residents of shophouse owners in Kampung Tasik Permai, is not a proper way in governing Selangor. If this trends goes on for another hundred years or thousands years, the fellow subjects of Selangor will be the sufferers, not enjoying what the state government gives.
    Since year2011 is still the PR/permanent resident government or kerajaan ic merah, who intends to reap a profitable margin from the poor residents of Tasik Permai. We had no trust in them, if now they try to force us to pay a high-cost premium for the shophouses in Tasik Permai, what else for the coming future, will they tax us more heavier for others, say like business licensing, ads board and others. Just a simple thinking what they think of, will we have a granted future? If we are suffering in the future, why must we vote PR for?
    It’s worst than when BN is in the government, at least regarding whatever it is, we can have a chance to discuss with BN.
    The 3 stooges they are; PKR greedy power, DAP going too straight, PAS always fighting for an Islamic state, if Islamic state and governs using the Islamic law, other races will be affected. Say a Chinese medical shop cannot sell liquor or betting on 4d or other gaming games will be disallowed. Sometimes Chinese used rice wine which is consider as liquor “minuman keras” which we use as traditional medical uses to rub on the affected part of the human body, say rheumatism sickness. Not drinking actually.
    I suggest political parties who had the intentions to govern a multi-racial community. If in the 1900 or 1950s there’s not so much nonsense, why must now they create so much rules, will these rules help the “rakyat”. It’s like separating the various races, this “pantang” that “pantang”, so the multi-racial system will be a separated group, you “satu puak” saya “satu puak”. Everyone will be separated, then you have to beware of me, and I have to beware of you. If everyone is scare to mix around, then what is the use of unity among the various races, achieve and work towards the goal till we let the whole world knows what is 1Malaysia, what is the word of working together, staying together with a united front.
    So, why should we vote and select a government who never cares about the rakyat? Malaysian voters be aware who you choose to represent us. For the future of our next generation, we must be very careful ! ! !
    Hidup BN, Hidup BN, Hidup BN !!!

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