Spirit of service inspires immediate response to floods in Malaysia
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia — When heavy rainfall caused severe flooding in different regions of Malaysia last month, the spirit of service and collective action that had been fostered through Bahá’í community-building activities in and near affected areas was immediately channeled toward relief efforts.
A message from the Bahá’í Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia called on Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assemblies in that country to follow ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s example, “remembering His all-embracing love for people of all nations, races, and beliefs,” and to “respond to the crying needs of... [their] fellow countrymen at this hour of need.”
Local Spiritual Assemblies moved to action, using Bahá’í centers as hubs for the collection and distribution of food, clothing, cleaning materials, and other essentials, while families throughout Malaysia opened their homes as shelters. In many instances, entire families and groups of people travelled long distances to affected areas to assist.
Among the first to respond were youth participating in community-building endeavors. Yamla Sathiyaseelan, a coordinator of Bahá’í educational programs in the city of Shah Alam, describes the experience of a group of young people near the Sri Muda neighborhood: “As soon as floodwaters had receded, groups of youth in the surrounding neighborhoods decided to take action.
“Several youth groups in different neighborhoods quickly connected with one another to coordinate their efforts. After consulting with Bahá’í institutions, some of these youth arrived in Sri Muda to assist different families.”
One of the youth involved in the effort describes how the act of service by a few people can inspire yet more people to action, saying: “Our numbers were small, and we were very tired after the first day.
“That night, we sent out messages to people we knew, searching for more volunteers. More people came to help the next day, which allowed us to split up into a few different teams for cooking and packing meals, for distribution, and to assist families with cleaning their homes.”
The spiritual principle of consultation was key to the relief efforts in Bahá’í communities throughout Malaysia.
Mirshal Lourdusamy, a member of a local Bahá’í institution in Shah Alam, says: “The culture of consultation that has emerged from the community-building process is what helped us to plan and act immediately and to collaborate with organizations of civil society. Conversations were also initiated with different faith communities to combine strengths in the relief efforts.”
Ms. Lourdusamy explains, "Many people now see themselves as part of an extended family, and not just as strangers, friends, or acquaintances who happen to live next to one another.”
A member of the Local Assembly of Shah Alam, Lourdusamy Packiasamy, reflecting on recent efforts, states: “This disaster has shown us that when individuals, the community, and institutions work harmoniously together, their power to contribute to the well-being of their society is greatly multiplied.”