for tsunami victims
KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysia's religious leaders planned a mass multi-faith memorial service on Friday to pray for victims of the Asian tsunamis that killed more than 120,000 people and left millions homeless, organisers said.
More than 1,000 Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians were expected to attend the service organised by a Buddhist group at a temple in a Kuala Lumpur suburb, said Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society president Sarath Surendre.
"We want Malaysians from all walks of faith to participate in the memorial service. We want to show that people from different faiths can unite and pray for the tsunami victims," he told AFP.
The ceremony would include reflections by representatives of the different religions, one-minute's silence to mourn the victims followed by lighting of 11 candles representing the affected countries, and inspirational songs, he said.
It would end with a service to seek blessings for the New Year, he said, adding that donations for the tsunami victims would be presented to Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Ting.
Malaysia lies closer to the epicentre of the earthquake than many countries hard hit by the tidal waves, but was protected from the full force of the tsunamis by Indonesia's Sumatra island.
Sixty-six people were killed in Malaysia, mainly on the tourist island of Penang.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the government would cancel all entertainment programmes on New Year's eve and replace them with prayers to pay tribute to the victims.
"We will pray that the country will not face such a problem again," he said.
The Internal Security Ministry has cancelled all permits issued for fireworks displays and hotels said they would scale down their New Year's eve celebrations.
The New Straits Times said many large-scale celebrations in Kuala Lumpur and across the country had been scrapped, including the annual fireworks display and performances by top local artistes at Malaysia's landmark buildings, the Petronas Twin Towers.
Several outdoor pop concerts at Merdeka Square in the city centre, a planned street carnival along a popular shopping belt in the city centre and several outdoor pop concerts have also been called off.
Nightclubs and pubs will observe a minute of silence instead of a countdown to midnight, the New Straits Times said. - AFP
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