Many faces of unity

THE paradox of unity is that it is multifarious, sometimes even contradictory in meaning and interpretation. While the unity of God is absolute in most religions, the unity or oneness of the human species is elusive. At best and in the strictest spiritual sense we are equal before God's laws. In the strictest societal sense, we must be equal before man's laws – which is not always the case.

Much as we'd like to believe that God made the human race and therefore the races of the world equal, they are not. This is the reality!

Much as we'd like to believe in the oneness of the human race, we are not alike or uniform. This is a fact!

We have only to look around us to see we are intrinsically and extrinsically multifarious. This is our strength!

The paradox will remain that we are one in God's eyes but not around the eye of the universe. While it is comforting to know that we shall be equal in eternity, we still have to manage the inequalities in our earthly existence. Let's manage them well!

The unity of a nation and its people cannot therefore be seen as an absolute. When we talk about the unity of a nation, we are talking about a world where various communities live in a symbiotic relationship – sometimes harmonious but oftentimes not. The challenge to Malaysia and for Malaysians is to create as many beautiful shared realities as we can. These will tide us over our inherent differences and make them easier to handle. We must focus on our common vision which binds us together as a nation.

We must promote the cross-fertilisation of our many strengths.

In the words of Mary Clark "the best hope of humankind is to maintain as rich a diversity of social types as possible, with the expectation that each of these experiments in the human future will cross-fertilise with others, and thus maintain the vital diversity essential for indefinite survival ... to ensure a rich source of ideas and techniques for its own future".

An effective way of promoting the synergy of ideas and techniques, methods and methodologies, strategies and approaches is through dialogue and engagement. It is at such meetings that people from diverse backgrounds can interact in the most rational manner. While the sceptics will insist that talk is cheap and that action speaks louder than words, they must be reminded that action (policies and programmes) is built on the thinking and reasoning that must precede it.

Premised on the belief that by bringing together participants from diverse backgrounds to address the most important aspects of unity, the ASLI-PCORE forum on Aug 29 hopes to arrive at a consensus on how we can chart our future together in the best possible ways.

The forum will explore the need for Malaysians to define a new, fresh approach to multiculturalism viz how to manage our plural society in ways that will bring about unity and a deeper understanding of one another's differences.

In particular, the forum aims to define the national discourse by:
» constructing a fresh approach to unity and multiculturalism which focuses on the positive notions of co-existence, conciliation, compromise and collaboration
» galvanising the voices of moderation to speak openly and honestly on issues of public concern
» bringing together diverse groups to engage one another and communicate in a balanced and rational manner
» renewing efforts to build a future together for a united Malaysia.

Looking at the rising religious intolerance and racial bigotry among certain sectors of society, we have to agree that national unity and integration has not occurred at a meaningful level. It seems that more and more, citizens are driven apart by their race and religion-based affiliations.

A sense of despondency is enveloping the second half-century of Malaysia's development as the cracks begin to show in interethnic relations. Racial polarisation is a reality.

With political developments becoming more volatile, there is a real danger that the cracks will widen, creating chasms in the nation's bid to become a harmonious, multicultural society.

Malaysia's future lies in its right-thinking citizens who care enough to lend their voices of peace, conscience and reason at forums such as the ASLI-PCORE one. Do not be distracted by cynics who say we are preaching to the converted because if more of the converted speak up in their community and group spaces, a new wave of thinking and a constructive national discourse will be created to counter the poisonous rhetoric surfacing everywhere.

Register for the ASLI-PCORE forum by Aug 24. Email