Malaysiakini Letter

Celebrating Hari Raya - Sarawak style

Philip Wong

LETTER | Thousands of people from all walks of life thronged the open house of the Sarawak government during the recent Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration at the Borneo Convention Centre in Kuching where Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg and his Cabinet members welcomed them.

This open house celebration has been the norm in Sarawak not only for Hari Raya but also for all the other celebrations like the Gawai (ethnic Dayak harvest celebration), Chinese New Year and Christmas. Friends are welcomed to homes of those celebrating these events and share in the joyous occasions with food and drinks. This is the way of life in Sarawak where the various ethnic and religious groups joined in the celebrations of their friends, neighbours or relatives.

In fact, such joint celebrations by people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds were the norm for Malaysia until the rise of religious fanatics and political groups championing single race or religion or both. Such toxic infiltration of religion and racial superiority does not bode well for the nation and tends to divide the country into "me and them" groups which can lead to social and religious bickering or worse, wars as seen in Europe and elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East.

With the new federal coalition government now in place, laws should be drawn up to prosecute all those out to divide the people through such means and to encourage social integration of the people from different backgrounds and religious beliefs.

Everyone should be reminded that each and everyone of us were born not of our own choosing but the will of God to our parents and each one of us equally loved by our Maker. If He had wanted to, He could have made us all alike, even identical, but what a boring world this would be if we are all alike; let's accept people for who they are and love, respect each and everyone equally for we are created equally.

There are many ways to foster friendship and love among us Malaysians – foremost, accept that we are different but share the same nationality and love for the country. We care for each other’s wellbeing as when my neighbour prospers, so will those around him and this is the way forward for our young nation.

Currently, we are still developing as a nation and facing increasing competitions from our neighbouring countries which are also aiming to become developed nations, with bigger populations as well as larger landmass.

Our advantage lies in our diversity and cooperation among ourselves, providing us with different ways to approach issues and finding unique solutions; lest we forget, nobody will wait for us if we missed the boat. It’s time we put all our efforts together and move as a single people, or face ethnic and religious strife that benefits no one.

PHILIP WONG is director for Sarawak Institute of Public Affairs.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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