The World Interfaith Harmony Week 2020 was launched in a grand way on February 18, 2020 at the Grand Ballroom of Le Quadri Hotel with the theme ‘The Importance of Love To Society’. To set the tone for the event, UCSI students from around 30 different countries waved their respective flags to honour the occasion. Dressed in traditional attire, the students demonstrated that different races and cultures can live together in peace and harmony in a country such as Malaysia.
Present at the event were Puan Aldrina @ Mimi O.P. Andu, Deputy Head Director for Planning from the Department of National Unity and Integration representing Senator Waytha Moorthy Ponnusamy, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for National Unity and Social Wellbeing; Academician Senior Professor Dato’ Dr Khalid Yusoff, Vice-Chancellor and President of UCSI University and Stefan Priesner, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malaysia.
Also at the auspicious event were Tan Sri Dr Omar Abdul Rahman, Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) Founding President and current Senior Fellow; Jufitri Joha, President of Malaysian Youth Council; Professor Dr Mohd Tajuddin also from UCSI University; and representatives from Jabatan Perpaduan.
The event started off with a Harmony Forum moderated by Professor Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria. Datuk Dr Jayasooria, was a former Practice Professor for Public Advocacy and Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies, National University of Malaysia (UKM).
Representatives from the different religions in Malaysia – Buddhist, Islam, Hindu, Bahai, Christian, Sikh, Tao and Orang Asli – gave a short presentation on the importance of love according to their respective religions. Essentially they shared how in the context of love while there is so much of hate, distrust and disharmony in the world, to build love in society to make a better world for all of us.
As the religious leaders shared their thoughts, it became apparent that the central issues discussed by all included the necessity of love to God, to mankind and then to all the creatures in the universe. Another important issue discussed was the need to find common ground between all the religions and not focus on the differences.
In his speech, Academician Senior Professor Dato’ Dr Khalid Yusoff highlighted that we are living in a world of increasing contradictions and of decreasing humaneity and understanding.
“We prefer to take the easy way out; to differentiate rather than integrate. This is an era devoid of values. We need to bring back meaning to higher education,” he said.
The event continued with a performance by the band ‘Ayam Cripsy’ comprising UCSI’s IMus students performing two songs from Sarawak. After that, it was Stefan Priesner’s turn to give an inspiring speech about his experiences with the UN while emphasising four values: respect for one’s culture, absence of discrimination, compassion and love for future generations.
As Puan Aldrina took the stage to deliver her speech, she reflected on how in Australia, her brother who was rather dark-skinned attracted the attention of a girl who said she liked him because of his ‘chocolate-coloured’ skin. As she put it, young children don’t ‘see’ the colour of one’s skin.
With that the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2020 was launched; which was followed by the launching of the Centre For Peace and Unity Education hosted by UCSI Group. 10 representatives from different NGOs were invited on stage including Blue Ribbon Global Founder Norani Abu Bakar.
The Centre was inspired by UCSI’s SDG Secretariat Office to build a society that lives out the core principles of multicultural life through sound transformative education that develops human relationship and promotes conservation of the environment, especially among the youth, aligning its implementation towards the Global Agenda 2030. Through this aspiration, UCSI Group has published a book entitled ‘Peace and Unity in Diversity’ for the youth studying in upper-secondary schools and universities.
Next on the agenda was the Harmony Forum Certificate Appreciation presentation by Puan Aldrina to the forum moderator and panellists. This was followed by the presentation of tokens of appreciation to Stefan Priesner and Academician Senior Professor Khalid; while Academician Senior Professor Khalid presented tokens of appreciation to Jufitri Johar and Puan Aldrina.
In conjunction with the launching of the Centre for Peace and Unity Education four competitions that have been held in collaboration with UCSI University were announced by Leong Sat Sing, President for the Centre of Peace and Unity Education. The first was the Tan Sri Omar Award which was launched in 2016; the second was the National Essay Writing Competition; the third was the mySENi Painting Competition; and finally the myStory Video Competition 2020. Total cash prizes and scholarships amounted to RM500,000.
It was truly an uplifting moment to see all the religious representatives coming together as one to share their knowledge and experience, particularly on the topic of love in society. UCSI will continue to pave the way for a peaceful and harmonious Malaysia through organising thought-provoking events such as these for the benefit of students, staff and the community.