KOTA KINABALU: Malaysians of different races, cultures and religious beliefs came together in a show of unity as they marked the 56th Malaysia Day celebrations at Padang Merdeka here.
In a carnival-style celebration, community and religious grassroots stood together to declare “We Are One” at the celebration led by Datuk Jerry Dusing from Community Empowerment Initiative Sabah (CEI) and Osman Ahmad from Masjid Nurul Hikmah Bukit Padang.
Their pledge read: “We are diverse but we are one, love binds us together, the foundation of our unity, kindness is our value, peace and harmony our desire, honour and respect is our heritage. This land, God’s creation, is for us to share together. Truth and justice are our pillars for growth. Prosperity shall flow in this land, let us arise together. Upon the foundation of these beliefs, we shall build this nation and our strength. We are firm and we are one.”
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal also attended the first-of-its-kind celebration, themed Unity in Diversity, alongside hundreds of enthusiastic participants here on Saturday night.
The event was organised by CEI together with more than 30 community partners consisting of Sabah-based ethnic and cultural groups, NGOs and faith-based associations from the Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu and Christian communities.
Leaders from community partners included Bishop Rev Dr James Wong from Sabah Council of Churches, Pastor Chin Chi Kiong from National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Commission on Sabah Affairs, Ong Tuen Yiok from Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia, and Dr G.T. Rajendran from Malaysia Hindu Sangam (Sabah).
“This is the first time a Malaysia Day celebration is led by the community for the community. As you can see here, Osman and I stand together to make a statement befitting our theme.
“We celebrate our unity in diversity in conjunction with Malaysia Day.
“Malaysia was an experiment to see if diverse people groups could live under a formalised, new nation. Our forefathers had high hopes that our diversity will not be a hindrance to our progress as a nation. That was 56 years ago, and these aspirations are still the same in our hearts today.
“We all long to live in peace and harmony together, and prosper together. Today, we see extreme influences that are challenging the very foundation of our nation.
“But in Sabah, we reject all forms of extremism, racism, hatred and violence. Today, the community partners make a stand and say that we will guard our shores from these challenges, ” Dusing said.
In his speech, Osman said that the gathering to mark Malaysia Day was an important milestone as people are able to meet with open hearts and minds while putting aside differences.
The event also featured a short film on the formation of Malaysia, cultural performances and community exhibitions.
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