Compassionate Presence: Interfaith Approach to Palliative Care

Written by: APHN Editorial Team (Malaysia), Dr Diana Katiman
Edited by: APHN Volunteer Editor, Ms Djin Lai

In multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Malaysia, palliative care healthcare givers (HCG) are challenged with the variable ways terminally-ill patients and their families deal with death and dying.  There are limited writings and few workshops conducted that has broached this rather sensitive subject.

To address this gap, the World Community for Christian Meditation (Malaysia, WCMM) has conducted a seminar on 9th June 2018 at the Exhibition Hall, Council of Churches Malaysia, Petaling Jaya Malaysia. Designed for the general public and HCG, its objective was to create awareness and sensitivity in dealing with dying patients in the Malaysian context.

The seminar was unique because it interlaced lectures with music, poetry and dance from various cultural backgrounds. The lectures were delivered by those who are directly involved in the care for the dying – doctors, nurses, counsellors, family members, friends, volunteers and a cancer patient. They collectively addressed HCG and carer’s concerns in caring for the dying like self-care, meditation and preparing patient and family for the inevitable; spirituality issues; and views on death and dying from the Orang Asal (Original people of Malaysia), Hinduism, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian perspectives.

A soul-moving song by Malaysian’s evergreen artist, Uji Rashid, written in memory of a loved one she had lost, kicked off the event, followed by a series of lectures. Participants were then awed by the Odissi dance ‘Moshka’ by a mother-and-two-children team. Early Hindu sages taught the path to moksha as a way to liberate the mind from fear of death. A note written by a clinical psychologist-cum-counsellor who looked after dying patients with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was read to the audience following the second series of lecture.

Among the lectures in the third session, the president of the Malaysian chapter of WCCM, Dr Patricia Por, shared  her experience in facilitating a multifaith meditation activity for a group of cancer patients and their families. This experience was practically shared by the audience when a moment of silence was observed with each doing self-contemplation. Instrumental music by a Malay group was played easing in and out of the silence.

The one-day seminar was probably the first of its kind in Malaysia. Besides educating palliative care HCG and the general public in spiritual care for terminally-ill patients, it was a reason for Malaysians to unite and care in the name of compassion. May this sincerity and dedication to care continues to flourish in years to come.

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