PETALING JAYA, Dec 25 — The unity of the diverse Malaysian population is a trademark of the country and its strength, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said today at a Christmas celebration.
Dr Wan Azizah said the Malaysian government is committed to enlarging spaces of “mutual respect, sharing and harmony”.
“Let us continue to show the world that unity in diversity is one of our assets, cherish our assets.
“This is our trademark, this is Malaysia’s trademarks,” she said in a speech at the Christian Federation of Malaysia’s (CFM) annual Christmas Day hi-tea session that was this year organised by the Council of Churches Malaysia.
“I am happy and proud to be a Malaysian,” she added.
Earlier in her speech, Dr Wan Azizah had wished all Malaysian Christians “a truly Merry Christmas”, also conveying best wishes from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, and Cabinet members.
Dr Wan Azizah also highlighted the open house culture in Malaysia during religious festivities, as she noted that Malaysians of other faiths would take the opportunity to visit their Christian friends to share the delicious food and join in the merriment of the Christmas celebrations.
“This is indeed one of the most unique features of Malaysian life. The unity, camaraderie and friendship among the people of different faiths and ethnicities is one of the strengths of this nation,” she said.
“The most beautiful thing about religious celebrations in this country is that people open their homes to their friends and neighbours, strengthening friendships and leaving lasting impressions,” she added.
“Freedom of religion in this country has its best expression in people coming together to share in the religious celebrations of each other,” she also said.
Dr Wan Azizah said every religion in the country treasures the noble values of love, peace and goodwill among all people.
“In fact, it lies at the very core of our respective religious teachings. Doing good, being just, caring for the needy and defending the good morals of society are central to our spiritual quests,” she said in her speech.
She also shared her personal experiences while studying from Standard 1 to Form 5 at the St Nicholas Convent School in Alor Setar, Kedah, noting that she had a “wonderful time” then.
Dr Wan Azizah said she had learnt to be “kind” and give charitably from her teachers who were also nuns, later telling reporters that they included an Irish nun and a Chinese nun.
“I am indebted to my teacher nuns who taught me how to be polite, how to speak well, how to be genuine and have a lot of patience.
“This is what I learnt growing up, which is not in the books. This is how you are as a person, that you inculcate these values,” she said, later adding that she could even recite the Lord’s Prayer.
“In essence, all Malaysians hold dear those values that strengthen mutual understanding, respect and harmony with each other,” she also said.
The event today was also attended by Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh; Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok, other elected lawmakers, diplomats, community leaders and leaders from other faiths.
CFM honorary treasurer Bishop Aaron Yap Chuan Ching today also expressed appreciation towards the many different religious leaders who had joined in the Christmas hi-tea, calling it a demonstration of the “true Malaysian spirit” and urging for all to cherish the ‘Muhibbah’ spirit as Malaysians share in each other’s religious celebrations.