Recognising, Respecting and Celebrating Diversity
By MAJURA PERASHOT
I love diversity. It adds colour to the world. It gives music to our lives. Through the differences in each individual that I have worked with, I get to enrich myself. Sharing and appreciating the uniqueness of each soul helps me see the beauty of diversity.
One of the unique characteristics of the leadership camps that my team and I conduct is that the participants come from different countries, diverse backgrounds, different beliefs, cultures, and behaviours. It is not always easy to handle youth coming in with different expectations of camp.
We strive each time to make sure that our campers get the best out of our camps. Through the experiences gained while conducting these camps, I have gathered some simple yet really useful insights on diversity.
I believe that through the differences we have, we can become closer to one another. Cultural diversity stirs the souls of people. Having discussions with people of various backgrounds helps me understand how easy it is to establish a dialogue when we start looking at the things that we have in common.
It is very important that all of us recognise the fact that each of us, no matter where we come from or what language we speak, is unique. Recognising the diversity among us helps in understanding further about people who are different from us.
This is one of the lessons that I learned from the youth who attend our camps. When they start interacting with each other, they start to seek for the common things that they share and through this, they become closer with one another.
Diversity is a reality in the camps that we organise. Through the games and live simulations that we run, I discovered that when campers learn to accept each person in their respective teams as equals, they learn to value each member in their team and this leads to them leveraging on the diverse and unique abilities that each member has.
I believe that this is not only applicable in camps, it holds true to our society and organisations as well.
If we learn to recognise and accept the diversity around us, we will be able to build a better community, a community that is knowledgeable, respectful and most importantly, loving.
Recognising diversity also makes us better thinkers. Diversity makes us revisit the questions that we thought we have found answers to.
For example, being in a multi-racial country makes me feel like I understand the cultures of my friends of different ethnicities
However, through my meetings with some campers from different countries, I have learned that my knowledge of these cultures is as tiny as a mustard seed and there are a lot more insights to gain.
This and many other things that I have learned through the diversity in our leadership camps have opened my mind to see things at a whole new level.
Respecting diversity is about how we behave and our attitude towards diversity. Respect comes along with recognition. It is an attitude in which we positively acknowledge the views of those whose interests or experience lead them to disagree with us on certain issues.
When we recognise our diversity, we need to learn how to respect the fact that the identity that every individual carries is his or her treasure. Every single trait portrays individuality and in order to understand another person or their point of view, we need to respect all parts that have their place in their life.
I have learned that to respect diversity, we must never assume or try to generalise a person without understanding him or her better.
When we start respecting, we will be able to recognise the values that people carry and appreciate them for who they truly are. Through this, we will not only be able to build connections and relationships, we also get to learn more from them regardless of whether we agree or disagree with their ideas. At times, it can challenge our existing values, and foundations.
Respecting diversity improves our ability to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. It makes us global thinkers.
We are repeatedly being reminded of the existence of diversity in the world we live in. Can you imagine what the world would be like if there was only one type of tree that existed? Or perhaps just one type of job available for all of us? Or how would we live in a world which only has one type of food (No! Unless it’s French fries) or only one colour?
Roger Wilkins, civil rights leader and a Pulitzer Prize winner, believes that we will have no hope of solving our problems without tackling the diversity, energy, and creativity of all our people.
Therefore, celebrate the diversity that we have! We have learned through history that some of the worst moments in human history happened because people failed to appreciate and value the diversity that they have.
Failure to celebrate diversity gave birth to the Holocaust in Germany where Hitler eradicated nearly six million Jews or something closer to home, like the May 13, 1969 incident which took the lives of many Malaysians.
There are many ways or things that we can do to celebrate the differences that we have. The easiest way would be through the different celebrations that we have in this country. For example, not too long ago, I attended an orang asli wedding celebration in Perak.
Through this, I learned more about the people, the culture and the problems that they are struggling with. I learned that some of them actually travelled all the way from Pahang to Perak on foot just to attend the wedding.
Not only that, I also got to taste their local food. It is interesting to see that some of theorang asli have incorporated some parts of the traditional Malay wedding ceremony rituals like bersanding into their custom.
When we learn more about certain cultures, we also get to learn about the problems and challenges that they face.
According to Malcolm Forbes, diversity is the art of thinking independently together. When we learn to see from different perspectives, we can come together with different ideas to overcome problems and eventually create a better world for the future. Let’s all start to recognise, respect and celebrate our diversity! Let’s genuinely reach out to others and learn more about each other. To love, after all, is to know. In order to bring transformation to the nation, we should start by loving our community.