The opening reflections were given by Institute of Ethnic Studies UKM Principal Fellow, Professor Datuk Dr Denison Jayasuria who emphasised the concepts of assimilation and integration in the process of dealing with cultural diversity.
He also explained the philosophy of “a Malaysian Malaysia” which is a new vision of Malaysia which institutes a multi-cultural society where all are equal citizens with good governance and openness and democracy.
He touched on the guidelines that need to be followed including having no exclusive claims, respect for diversity and human rights approach for all. For him, life is a compromise; you give and take to build better nations.
Zubedy (M) Sdn Bhd Director, Anas Zubedy went through 10 principles for a moderate Malaysian. Some of them included having a common unity and consciousness, refraining from racist remarks, to be critical of oneself and the community first and embracing diversity and inclusion.
Parent Action Group for Education Chairman, Datin Azimah Rahim highlighted that education should be a choice according to the wishes of parents and advocated more exposure to English because it is a neutral language. In fact, she said, English can bring Malaysians together.
“Diversity should be celebrated not suppressed and we must focus on the similarities in different religions”, she said.
IIUM academician, Associate Professor Dr Isham Pawan was of the opinion that we should emphasise political freedom and democracy and not wholesale adoption of Western culture.
“The SDGs promote an inclusive society which tackles issues head on where no country should lose their identity. We need to have human dignity; respect each other; we are all children created by God,” he said.
Reverend Dr Sivin Kit was the last speaker for the forum and stressed that moderation and unity was the way forward. The problem nowadays, he said, is that we coexist but struggle to talk about religion and that we have to be familiar with the kind of Malaysia we want to construct.
“I believe the way to start is by training teachers. There is a basic fundamental ignorance in terms of religion and we need to have an encounter beyond the book,” he added.
SDG week was certainly an eye-opener for all as new ideas were shared and insightful perspectives were discussed. Above all, it was a good opportunity to self-reflect on how each of us can contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle and shape the future.