SUBANG JAYA: Hundreds of devout Catholics, sceptics and curious onlookers continue to gather at the Sime Darby Medical Centre, where a purported image of the Virgin Mary first appeared on one of the hospital’s window panes a little over a week ago.
Many were seen clasping their hands, their eyes shut in prayer. Others took snapshots or stood on tiptoe to peer at the window panel, where the image was easily visible to the naked eye.
Several uniformed nurses were also among the multiracial crowd, clearly taking a short break from work to utter their prayers.
But despite the large gathering present and the religious tensions gripping the country the past few days, the atmosphere was peaceful; the people united irrespective of their race and religion.
Among those drawn to the image were a tudung-clad mother and daughter. They weaved through the obliging crowd to get a better view of the window panel, despite looking out of place among the throng of non-Muslims.
“We came here because it’s so interesting – it’s something ‘unexplainable’, you know?” the mother explained to FMT while her daughter fumbled for her camera.
“One’s interpretation of the phenomena depends on one’s faith,” she said with a smile.
“Curiosity brought us here,” the daughter added, wiping her sweating brow as the sun’s rays beat upon them.
The duo’s presence did not go unnoticed – others smiled warmly their way, while one Catholic named Christopher Yap approached FMT to express his happiness that members of different faith had also come to witness the sight.
“It’s wonderful that people from different religions want to learn and understand more about this,” beamed Yap, nodding towards the two.
Religious matters are considered sensitive in Malaysia – in January 2010, a court decision over the use of the word “Allah” in Malay-language bibles sparked a series of attacks on churches, and other places of worship, all over the country.
More recently, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar has courted controversy for allegedly saying that Malays were free to choose their religion, with the police opening up investigations under the Sedition Act
“For me, I am personally sceptical that it is a genuine image of the Virgin Mary. There have been too many hoaxes. But if it is real, then that is really good for Catholics,” said Yap, adding that he had come here with his mother, aunt and children.
Another member of the crowd, Shamala, enthusiastically shared with FMT the purported special qualities of the image.
“The aura of the image is very clear; it is so interesting to see,” said Shamala, gesturing towards the window panel.
“And as you can see, all the other window panels reflect the sun, but this one is faded.
“They also say that every time a photo is taken, it appears different in the picture,” she added.
But, like Yap, she said she was not entirely convinced that it was truly an apparition.
“To me, it could be an image of a man, so I’m not entirely convinced. But this is bringing Catholics together in prayer, so that is a good thing,” she said.
Meanwhile, over the quiet hum of the crowd, the soft melody of a hymn could be heard; to one side stood a multiracial group of Catholics praying together.
Among them were sisters Jesintha and Rosalind Joseph, and their friend Theresa Henry, who told FMT that this was their seventh visit to see the image.
“We feel so blessed that we can see our Lady Mary here,” said Henry, a wide smile on her face.
“She has a message, and it is a message of peace for the world, and for us to come back to God. She wants to tell us how much she loves us,” she added.
Jesintha said she had just returned from Lourdes, where an apparition of the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared.
“I felt so peaceful there, so happy, I didn’t want to leave. And I thought that the Virgin Mary would never come to Malaysia – I even told that to my husband. But she proved me wrong,” said Jesintha with a laugh.
“When I heard that she appeared here, I prayed fervently she would still be here when I arrive in Malaysia. And she is,” said Jesintha.
Her sister Rosalind added: “Our Lady is here for everyone, regardless of race, religion. Because we are all one people, we are all God’s creation.
“It is a message of peace and love for everyone.”
The window pane is not expected to remain at the hospital for long, however; on Tuesday, the hospital agreed to give it to the Catholic Church, to be placed at the Marian Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang.
When contacted, a spokesperson of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes told FMT that they did not know when the window pane would be transferred, and that they were still awaiting a decision from authorities.
The Catholic Church said it will withhold comment until the image has been tested and verified by authorities.