It wasn’t until last week that I finally put something together after the video shots I took at Kwan Tee.
Among the Hakka community in India, it is normal to see home altars with Ganesh, the Virgin Mary and Tudigong altogether on one platform. There is no singular religion, and there aren’t any qualms about that. Which is why it struck me when I met the Christian community in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. “You cannot choose God one day, and then something else the next day,” someone had told me with finality. However, it’s no surprise that Sabahan Hakkas are adamant about their religious beliefs, especially considering a) some were descendants of Taipingers and b) they were specifically brought by the Basel Mission to help settle the territory.
My family and I are Catholic. My grandparents were Buddhists though, and my Ahpo, dad and I don’t eat beef as part of Buddhist practice. Coming from countries in which religion was omnipresent and plural, it never struck us as odd or wrong. Religion could loosely be defined as whatever got a person through the day. So when I first came to Mauritius, I was first struck by how similar the attitude was towards religion; even though most Chinese identify as Catholics, there is no ill will towards those who take on their own interpretations of how dogmatic or pragmatic they are with their practices. Indeed, it was a tremendous privilege to go pagoda-hopping with Roland Tsang and see how the Chinese community has managed to give rise to their own religious identity, balancing their past with their present and future.