Living in a diverse, multiracial society, Malaysians are continuously trying to forge unity among people of different upbringings through various means.
Historically, Malaysians lived in communities based on racial identities. In more modern times, industrialisation and modernisation has led to more diverse neighbourhoods. A committee is usually formed among members of the neighbourhood or community. Although living apart in separate households, the need to resolve problems faced by the community allows its committee to gather its residents for communal work – also known as “gotong-royong” in Malay.
“Gotong-royong” is voluntary in nature; people can spare some time to help out if they want. Communal work usually involves cleaning up public places or helping the needy. Such activities usually see a significant part of the neighbourhood or community turn up to help, and allow people of different races to cooperate closely.
Open doors, open hearts
Another popular activity that builds unity among races is the open house activity, or “rumah terbuka” in Malay. Typically taking place during festivals and weddings, the hosts open their doors to the public. When attending such an activity, you will often see food being served.
This activity allows people of different backgrounds to meet in a casual environment and know each other more. Through open house activities, visitors also get a glimpse of other people’s cultural beliefs, especially that of the hosts.
Together we celebrate
Malaysians celebrate a variety of festivals, including Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, and Christmas Day. These festivals are mainly celebrated by people of a specific race or religion, but it is not shocking at all for people of other upbringings to join in on the fun and take part in the festivities. Doing so helps us know more about others’ culture and beliefs, strengthen old bonds and form new ones as well.
The annual Independence Day (Hari Merdeka) and Malaysia Day (Hari Malaysia) celebrations, held on 31 August and 16 September respectively, also see Malaysians come together to commemorate and celebrate the independence of their homeland. Throughout the month of August, a series of activities are held in conjunction with Independence Day to promote patriotism among citizens.
Malaysia has become a prosperous, modern country as a result of cooperation, unity and understanding among people of different races. Through activities like community work and open house, Malaysians have been able to build strong, friendly communities, and understand each other more.