Building Bridges & Connecting Communities

The key element for building a strong and resilient New Malaysia is unity. Unity requires every Malaysian not only to respect each other’s cultural practices but to understand their religious beliefs as well.

“We have the ability to change our views by practising interfaith understanding, which increases empathetic learning,” said Dr Hamidah Marican, training facilitator and cross-cultural specialist at Harmony Works Sdn Bhd.

“Building Bridges, Connecting Communities’’ was organized by SFX Parish Ministry of Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Affairs, in collaboration with Harmony Works Sdn Bhd.

Participants were taught how to adopt a critical view of their interaction and acquire the essential tools to engage with one another in respectful dialogues. The interactive session was held on 20 July 2019 at Bellarmine Hall, Church of St Francis Xavier. It was attended by Malaysians from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

“The dialogue of life is witnessed through mutual respect for each other. Don’t make quick judgements without knowing the facts,” said Patricia Nunis, workshop facilitator at Harmony Works.

She called on all Malaysians to work together for the betterment of our society to address economic and social issues such as poverty and unemployment. It is important to promote regular dialogue on matters concerning inter-ethnic relations, culture and diversity in Malaysia.

So, how do we move beyond our stereotypes?

“Our world view is often shaped by our own personal experiences. We need to start movingaway from our inherent thinking and be more openly-engaged with people from variousethnic backgrounds to foster greater mutual respect for diversity and unity in Malaysia,” she said.

Stereotyping is a way of labelling or categorizing a person. It prevents us from buildingrapport with individuals who are different from us.

“We need to keep an open mind and be aware of our differences,” she explained.

At the same time, Patricia defines prejudice as “an opinion not based on reason or actualexperience; while discrimination is unequal treatment of individuals, usually established onthe basis of gender, religion or disability.“

We need to be cognizant of the actual data and deal with emotional response to thesituation to undertake better analysis and decision-making.

Participants learned how to apply the ORID method (Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional) ORID is a facilitation framework that enables a focused conversation to reach apoint of agreement or to clarify differences.

“There is room for everyone in Malaysia even if we are not exactly alike,” added Patricia.
“Bridges of understanding can only be built by engaging in constructive dialogue which
maintains boundaries of respect and tolerance.”


Photos by Harry Chew

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