Posted by: thebluemusicblog | September 27, 2011


I take a taxi to Armenian Street in Penang, Malaysia. I have been on this beautiful island for almost two weeks now, and for the first time I have at least three hours without any appointments. I have heard about Armenian Street and the close neighbourhood. It is a quarter of the city well worth visiting for any peace loving person. I regard myself as a peace loving person and I look forward to the visit. The driver lets me out around a corner and points out a beautiful Buddhist Temple. I head into the overwhelming and very humid heat and immediately smell the strong smoke coming from the Temple.

Colourful dragonheads with wide, open mouths spit out dark smoke, it comes in waves and makes the humid heat almost intolerable. But I find it fascinating. Especially when an employee of the Temple comes out and tends to the fire in a very relaxed, business like way. This is every day for him, first time for me.

I walk down the street, and maybe 50 metres from the Buddhist Temple I walk straight in to a Hindu Temple. Here the smoke is coming from huge sticks being carried by people and then placed in big holders so that the smoke from one stick joins the smoke from the others and makes life really difficult if the wind is not going away from you.

I sneak inside and make my camera work discretely without flash, I am not sure that I should be on the inside at all.

People are far too busy with their own activities to notice just another tourist. So I get a unique (at least for me!) glimpse into the inside of a Hindu reality on a Monday morning.

I turn around the corner and walk onto a beautiful, white Mosque with a high minaret. Even on a Monday morning the Mosque is quite busy, people coming and going.

A sign outside tells me the history of the Mosque, how it was built in the 18th century to serve Muslim soldiers in the British army. It also tells how the Mosque quickly became too small and needed to be extended. I have visited many Mosques in my time, and spoken with imams in Albania, in Kosovo, in Turkey. It was always interesting; it was good to talk with colleagues from another faith. In Skodra, Albania, I met with both the Imam, a Catholic priest and an Orthodox priest at the same time, and they shared with me how they had kept in close contact over many years under communist rule. They helped one another, supported one another, they were friends and colleagues.

The sun was merciless in Penang, shining over sinners and saints, making the streets like bake ovens. From the Mosque I turned around the next corner and went in to the beautiful Anglican Church of St. George. The Church was not busy at all on a Monday morning, but a lady was working there, and she received me with Malaysian hospitality and asked where I came from. I told her I came from a small country up north, which is refrigerated all year. As much as I enjoyed the beauty of the church, I enjoyed the fans above even more.

The Anglican Church was without smoke and sound, but helped me to cool down a bit. So much that my brain slowly started to work again and produced a couple of modest observations.

These Temples and the Mosque and the Church were all built around 200 years ago in Penang, Malaysia, and they were built in the same quarter of the city, less than a block away from one another. From the Church I saw the smoke from the Hindu Temple. For more than two hundred years there had been no clashes of cultures. There had been peaceful coexistence, living together, being neighbours.

In my next post I shall introduce Max Erdinger to you. Max is a Christian from Kansas, USA, in fact a Mennonite, who stayed in Viet Nam from 1971-76 without being a soldier. Since then he has lived in different countries of Asia. He is running a School of Peace. One of his students is a young Muslim lady from Thailand. You will meet her next week.


  1. Interesting Blog. Say Hi to Max. I had met and interacted with him Bangkok sometime in 1983 when I was part of a leadership orientation program of the WSCF Asia Pacific.
    My name is Koshy Mathew and was Asia Secretary then

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