More events needed to promote diverse cultures

Embrace with grace: People from the Murut ethnic group presenting their traditional dance, the ‘mengunatip’, during the National Unity Week in Johor Baru. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

JOHOR BARU: Despite living in the country all their lives, many are still in the dark about the diverse cultures and ethnic groups that shape Malaysia.

Businessman Michael Wong, 32, said he recently found out about the Rungus, Murut, Melanau and Kenyah ethnic groups when he visited the four-day national-level Unity Week celebration at a mall here.

“When I stopped by one of the exhibition booths, I learned that there are more than 50 ethnic groups in Sabah and Sarawak ... that is just amazing.

“Even in the peninsula, there are so many different ethnic groups. It is not just Chinese, Malay and Indians. It is a shame that many of us, including me, are not aware of this. There is a need for us to educate ourselves about the cultures of those around us so that we can better understand each other,” he said in an interview, adding that he is more proud to be a Malaysian after gaining the newfound knowledge.

Retiree Trishen Kaur, 62, said she spent hours exploring the exhibition booths which displayed the culture, music, arts and food of Malaysia’s many different ethnic groups.

“I learned a lot from the exhibition. I know that Malaysia is a very diverse country, but I did not know we have this many different ethnic groups, especially from Sabah and Sarawak. I even came across ethnic groups that I have never heard of and got to know about their cultures.

“To me, this is a beautiful reminder of how lucky we are to be Malaysians,” said Trishen, who travelled from Pontian to Johor Baru to attend the event.

Trishen, who has been a Rukun Tetangga volunteer since 1985, said she hopes to see more programmes like this in the future as it is a good way to bring Malaysians from all walks of life to get to know each other better.

“I joined the Rukun Tetangga because I wanted to serve my country and be involved in activities that could benefit the public.

“I also see it as a very good way for us to get to know those around us better. My four children have also followed in my footsteps and have been volunteering since they were in their teens.

“The Rukun Tetangga and programmes such as this Unity Week are among things that can help to keep Malaysians united. I hope to see more such programmes and encourage the public, especially youths, to take part in Rukun Tetangga,” she said.

Another visitor, 20-year-old Azriana Ares, hopes that future programmes could incorporate the unity factor to allow the rakyat to learn more about each other and prevent misunderstandings.

“Lately, there are many issues and conflicts in the country that are uncalled for, many of which could be avoided if we only took time to understand each other better. It is heartwarming to see people of different backgrounds coming together at the programme and I hope that this extends beyond this event,” she said.

She said Unity Week should be held in every state to benefit more people.

“I visited the event with my friend and we bonded over our love for food, which is also a great tool to unite the people,” said the university student who is currently doing her internship.

The event, which concluded yesterday, was aimed at strengthening the unity of the people based on three principles namely “understand, respect and accept” the differences in culture, customs and beliefs of the diverse population in the country.

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Unity , Diversity , Unity Week , Harmony


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