Respecting Christian Graveyard & Photography Etiquette

Tabi basa and greetings family and friends,

How’s your week so far? I hope it is good, and all is well at your side. The All Saint’s Day and All Souls Day were celebrated by Christians on 1&2 Nov, but I think the one that get the most attention is All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, because it is the one that can be commercialised and celebrated at parties. However, for Pichins, we don’t celebrate Halloween and go to church instead on 1 Nov for All Saints’ Day mass.

Visiting Grave Yard on 2 Nov. I missed this year’s visit. Maybe next year then.

The following day is the day to visit graves. However, preparation is being made a week before, where villagers clears the graveyard from all of the weeds, or any infesting plants and some even redecorate the grave, especially the old ones that was deteriorating due to exposure to the UV and heat from sun and rain, and repeat.

Before talking about going to the grave, I want to brief you about the proper etiquette at a Christian Grave.

Proper Etiquette at Christian Graveyard

My sharing here is based on what I have practiced throughout years of living my life as a Christian (Roman Catholic) at Kpg Pichin, Serian. This applies if you were to do any business, or even photography job there.

  1. Don’t go there without permission, especially if you don’t know the relatives of the particular grave you are visiting. If you must go, do contact the head of the village. The best time to go is during All Souls’ Day on 2nd Nov every year. This is the best time to visit graves, where all of the relatives of the departed ones visit their grave. It is totally different story if you want to visit your late great-great grandmother’s grave to clean it. You and your relatives, or friends of your choosing can go there anytime you want. You have a specific job to carry out there.
  2. Don’t play around at Graveyard. It is not a playground. If you want to play, go visit LePapa, Serian. They have a playground outside.
  3. Dress appropriately. To be safe, just wear any non-revealing attires or even better, wear casual attire, just like how you want to visit your friends during Gawai, Kaamatan or even Raya. The best dress is the black or white, and non-colourful or cheerful themed dress.
  4. Don’t make noise or even play inappropriate music there. It is not a rock concert or a stage. The acceptable case is when everyone recite a prayer together or even singing hymns together during All Soul’s Day. For me, that is the best part of the 2nd Nov, to see my villagers pray and sing together at our beloveds final resting place; praying for them to demonstrate our love even though we are no longer occupying the same phase of life.
  5. Do not do inappropriate business at graveyard. For example, sleeping there to get lucky number (superstition), do photoshoot there with intention of getting viral, which is inappropriate and a sign of disrespect.
  6. Remember to take bath after you came back from graveyard, because you don’t want to bring back anything to your residence. You also need to clean your gears from the graveyard soils because of this reason.

Wedding Dress Photoshoot at Christian Graveyard, Batu Pahat

Recently I was shocked to see a viral post, showing a bunch of people went for a photoshoot at a Christian graveyard at Batu Pahat. Initially I thought they were related to them, or it was part of the recent All Souls’ Day celebration. I was wrong. They are not doing it as part of religious celebration, but they are doing it as per normal photoshoot to promote their latest wedding dress just like how any photographer treat any normal photoshoot venue. That’s the first red flag.

The second one is, they are not part of the community there, and I highly doubt that any of the community members of the departed ones were involved. The biggest red flag here is that they are disrespecting the grave.  I believe majority of non-Muslims do not have any intention of doing photoshoot at Muslim graveyard because we, Christians respect Muslim’s religion, culture and graveyard. However, this bunch of people have crossed the line. That’s why, many of the Christians all around Malaysia were infuriated.

I dig further, and I found that Harian Metro interviewed her, Nur Amirah Mohd Amiruddin, 26, the owner of the boutique. You can read it here. In that article, she said that she just want to do something different, and inspired by the photographers and models outside of Malaysia, which is understood as they have a lot of cultures. She also mentioned that she has no intention of being viralised when she first did this.

“Saya pilih lokasi itu kerana mahu mencari kelainan dan mahu lari daripada kebiasaan dengan mengambil inspirasi daripada luar negara. Tujuan saya memuat naik gambar berkenaan di FB adalah untuk suka-suka dan tiada niat langsung mempermainkan mana-mana agama,”

(Translation: I chose the location because I want to find something different and to go outside the from the norm by taking inspiration from outside Malaysia. My intention to upload the picture is for fun and has no intention to make fun or ridiculing any religion).

That is the statement that was being given when she was being interviewed by Harian Metro.

Why Is This A Big Thing and Makes A Lot of People Angry?

For Christian, graveyard is the final resting place for someone after they leave this world. It is where their body resides. For Christian, our body is the temple Holy Spirit and it should be treated with reverence or deep respect. Love that we have is stronger than death. That is why we visit graveyard every year, to remember the one that left us behind as their soul passes on to God.

From Chrissy’s Tweet. That is why she is furious. Don’t mess around with a Sarawakian lady.

When I was a small kid, and to many other Christians, we were being taught to RESPECT the graveyards. I remembered that my parents and grandparents told me to not play around at graveyard, it is not even a place to play, joke around or even horse play. Even when you need to be particular when you are sitting on the grave, because for us at Pichin, we shouldn’t CROSS a grave (melangkah). It is a big no no. For us, it is a huge sign of disrespect. For other graveyards, even the priests will come and bless the grave with holy water. Grave plays a vital role in a Christian faith, where it is a symbol of reverence or deep respect to our body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit as our soul passes on to God. Each steps should be taken carefully as we visit graves and when we want to visit our departed beloved’s grave. I do remember I had to be guided by my uncle as I find my way through the grave yard. Now that I am big, it is my turn to guide my niece and nephew as they grew older later on.

There is something disturbing about this photo. (From MummyQueen’s IG Story)

Also, they are using wedding dresses. Wedding is a sacred union between man and woman. It was unthinkable to do combine wedding-related items with graveyards. This is real life, not Hollywood. Not Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. I am not sure what concept they are trying to do, but to trying to do whatever you see on TV at an actual graveyard is not a good idea. Whoever suggested the idea should be brought to justice.

The funny Tweet about the whole thing, including Photography class.

I am glad to see that even her fellow peoples, (Malay & Muslims) understands the level of respect that graveyard deserves and condemning the activities of these irresponsible peoples that disrespects the grave. Such action is indeed a disgrace to the Muslim community in Malaysia, because I know that majority of them respects the other religions.

It is a shame that the bad apples get the most publicity. Therefore, there is no need for you guys to apologise on behalf of your religion because it is not your fault. The one at fault is the one who does and involved with this photoshoot.

I think that if you are desperate to be famous, any way is a good way, even if it infuriates other peoples. I learned that her followers’ number skyrockets. But at what cost? Losing your pride? You don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reason, particularly an over-the-top venue of photoshoot. In this particular case, not only they are being lambasted in social media, but they are also being schooled and scolded by their own fellow Muslims. Such is the price to be paid.

I have been singing “Helena” for the longest time I can recall. When I saw this meme from Jacob, I had a good laugh. From Facebook: Jacob Eli

If someone does that to my great grandparents grave, I will find you. Other headhunters descendants are not so forgiving though. Just be glad that you don’t do it at Sarawak. Otherwise, I am not sure what will happen next.

Conclusion:

What I can say is, respect others, to earn respect from them. That’s the fundamental things to be learned from one another, especially if you are living in a multi-cultural country like Malaysia. Also, she had posted a live apology. If it is sincere, then may she gains peace. Otherwise, only God knows what’s next. I hope this post teaches you what do do next during your next visit to any Christian graveyard. There might be some difference, but fundamentally it is the same, where you should treat it with respect.

Let us treat each other with respect, and show each Malaysian the level of respect that we all deserve. Since she apologised already, let’s forgive them as Jesus’ teaches us to forgive one another just like how Father forgives us. Let’s close this book as there is benefit in harbouring hatred and move on, but let the lesson remains lest it is repeated. Have a good week ahead!

Your Tukang Rantek,
Claudius Weson

Note: Claudius Weson is a Pichin-born, tukang rantek (photographer) based in Miri, mainly doing portraiture (indoor / studio / outdoor photoshoot), weddings and event photography.