KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians have become less united over the years but prominent social activist Datin Paduka A. Mangalam (pic) is optimistic that “the goodness of my fellow countrymen will prevail at the end of the day”.
The adviser to the Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship (Insaf) cited her own life experiences as proof, having witnessed orphans and the needy from all races being housed under one roof and making the place home to all.
“Everyone is a friend regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or affiliation. This is what Malaysia has been and will always be.
“Our focus is on interfaith harmony so let’s focus on our commonalities rather than blow up our minor differences,” she said.
A firm advocate of moderation, she said it must be practised at all levels of society, as well as by leaders, politicians and religious heads.
Mother Mangalam, as she is popularly known, is 88 and the co-founder and president of the Pure Life Society.
She has devoted her life to serving the less fortunate.
She urged other news media, especially the vernacular newspapers, to join The Star in promoting the campaign for moderation.
It was important that the campaign reach Malaysians beyond the urban English speaking audience, she said.
She said it should be a long-term campaign and urged The Star to have the patience and commitment to pursue the ideal.
“I was born into a Hindu family but my father was a practising Catholic. On Sundays, he used to take me marketing and we would also go to church. We were so religiously tolerant in the past,” she said.
Mangalam received the Merdeka Award 2010 in the education and community category for her outstanding contributions in helping the underprivileged and fostering national unity.
“Unity is strength. It empowers us to overcome misunderstanding. Unity is survival when nurtured in sincerity. United, the nation can be peaceful, prosperous and progressive.
“Unity in diversity is realised only when all the races have a connection with each other,” she said.
In the 1980s the Interfaith organisation had its meetings in the homes of Malays, Chinese and Indians on rotation, she said.
The only way to be united as one nation, she said, was for Malaysians to take part in inter-racial organisations without any hindrance while children should be taught to be united from kindergarten level.
“Only love for one another can keep Malaysians united. We must keep our ego in check and develop more humility so that we can move forward in unison and with grace.
“There must be oneness in heart notwithstanding race or creed,” Mangalam added.