“Selamat Hari Raya!”
Tzu Chi volunteers warmly welcomed their Muslim guests with smiling faces and these two familiar Malay greetings as they arrived at the Jing Si Hall on 2nd July, to participate in a joyous Hari Raya celebration.
A total of 151 Muslim aid/care beneficiaries and their families attended the celebration for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which marked the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. This festival is widely celebrated by Muslims in Singapore and is a grand festival equivalent to the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Around two plus in the afternoon, the beneficiaries began arriving in droves at the Jing Si Hall. To make them feel at home, the main hall on the third floor of the building had been transformed into a venue for a grand feast, with 10 rows of long tables neatly arranged in the traditional Malay style.
The volunteer in charge of decorations, Chai Li Hong, had informed her Malay friends of this Hari Raya celebration and invited them to make some ketupat-style decorations for the event. Her friends not only readily agreed to help out and even lent her the translucent draperies from their homes for use in the event hall’s decorations.
Repaying Love With Song and Dance
“Dong…… Dong…… Dong…..”
The rhythmic sounds of the traditional Malay kompangs sounded the start of the day’s festivities. Next, Tzu Chi’s aid beneficiary Affandi roused the festive mood in the hall with his beautiful rendition of this joyful Hari Raya song: “Satu Hari di Hari Raya Ku Lihat cahaya bersinar Indah……” (On this bright sunny day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri…)
“When I was facing a multitude of challenges in life, including my health and financial difficulties, and fell into the pit of life, (Tzu Chi volunteers appeared to help me). I’m thankful for their care and help all the way,” said Affandi.
Presently, his health has improved. When Tzu Chi volunteers invited him to perform at the Hari Raya celebration, he readily agreed to present three Malay songs. He shared that the sight of so many fellow Muslim brothers and sisters gather to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri together and the joy on everybody’s faces really gladdened his heart.
Affandi was meticulous after accepting the request for the performance and personally planned for the programme of the songs, including the song selection, performing crew, how the performers entered the stage, how to rouse the audience, etc. At the same time, he invited three friends to assist with the performers’ make-up and leading the audience in the songs. And the team put up a simple yet heart-warming performance together.
Unifying Love between Races
Through the sharing of the video “Tzu Chi Year in Review 2016”, the emcee of the event, Andrew Lim, narrated the origin of Tzu Chi to everyone present. He spoke of the “Bamboo Bank Era”, where Dharma Master Cheng Yen started Tzu Chi from scratch with 30 housewives each saving NT$0.50 in their bamboo coin banks daily. He even invited everyone present to adopt a bamboo coin bank, so as to spread their love to other people in need.
First-time participant Saidyusri expressed with some surprise: “I’d never thought that Tzu Chi is a Buddhist organisation. It has organised such a Hari Raya Aidilfitri activity with so many Muslim friends participating, and there are even Malay song items and dance performances.”
Saidyusri had brought his bamboo coin bank with over two months of savings, and donated his loving offering by pouring the savings into a huge urn on-stage. Although he has kidney disease and a heart condition, after watching how the volunteers gave of themselves in the video, he promised himself that if his health permits, he may also visit the Tzu Chi Eco-Awareness Centre to help with recycling work.
Another beneficiary, Hajjah Tuhava, lives alone with her husband who has been paralyzed for over a decade. She missed the presence of her loved ones in this joyous festival, and her eyes brimmed over with tears, especially when she thought of her grandchildren. She was referred by the hospital to be under the care of Tzu Chi, and was very thankful to the volunteers for inviting both her husband and herself to take part in this day’s festivities.
In the “Tzu Chi Year in Review 2016” video, Hajjah Tuhava witnessed scenes of disasters and Tzu Chi’s relief work around the world: relief rice distribution in Myanmar in January, corporate employees in Indonesia donating their savings in their bamboo coin banks to help the needy in February, Syrian refugee crisis in March, strong earthquake in Ecuador in April, etc. She thus discovered that there are many more people around the world in dire straits, and hoped to join the ranks of Tzu Chi volunteers someday.
“Kita satu keluarga, saling syukur saling percaya……”
Towards the end of the celebration, the familiar tune of the heart-warming song, “One Family”, piped out through the speakers, and the lyrics were sung in Bahasa Melayu. Volunteers led everyone in the accompanying sign language, holding hands and singing along with the beneficiaries. After that, a gift bag filled with healthy goodies was distributed to every beneficiary before they left the Hall, closing the festivities on a heart-warming and joyful note.