How cultural diversity contributes towards nation building

BANGI: Cultural diversity has always been part and parcel of the Malaysian identity, and inter-cultural engagement and dialogue between various communities fosters a sense of unity that is significant in creating a sense of nationhood.

This was why the Catholic Research Centre (CRC), in collaboration with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), decided to organise a symposium on Cultural Diversity, Identity and Nationhood: Malaysian Perspective on Saturday, November 24, at UKM’s Dewan Perdana, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities. The symposium commenced with a welcoming address by chairperson of the steering committee, Dr Shanthini Pillai, who is an Associate Professor at UKM’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities and Associate Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA).

The keynote address was delivered by Distinguished Professor Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, Founding Director of KITA, who spoke about two major frameworks in managing diversity in decolonised countries such as Malaysia.

The symposium was enhanced by the presence of Most Rev Julian Leow, Archbishop of the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese.

The morning session saw scholars and arts practitioners sharing with the audience their perspectives on Cultural Diversity, Identity and Nationhood in the Malaysian Arts. Independent filmmaker Brenda Danker spoke about films, while Dr Keith Tan from the School of Architecture, Building and Design, Taylor’s University discussed architecture in Malaysia. Independent arts curator Tan Sei Hon and Dr Adil Johan, a research fellow with KITA, highlighted how visual artists and musicians depicted Malaysia’s cultural diversity, identity and nationhood in their creative works.

The afternoon session focused on Interfaith Perspectives on Malaysian Cultural Diversity. The four panelists at the forum were Dr Jaffary Awang, Associate Professor from UKM’s Faculty of Islamic Studies;
Fr Dr Clarence Devadass, director of the CRC; Mrs Gowri P.S. Thangaya, National Malaysia Hindu Sangam Women Leader; and Dr Jeslyn Sharnita Amarasekera, senior lecturer at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College.

All panelists spoke about how cultural diversity is embraced and incorporated in their respective faiths and contributes towards fostering a sense of nationhood among Malaysians.

The symposium was attended by about 100 people comprising of students, academics and members of the public including parishioners from churches in the KL Archdiocese.

The perspectives shared in the symposium provided a truly educational, eye-opening and enlightening experience to all attendees.


Article reproduced from Herald Malaysia online

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