Respecting diversity in cultures, identities, beliefs, languages and values to create an inclusive society
By Nasserruddeen Khan
December 10 is a day steeped in importance and significance for humanity. On this day in 1901 the first Nobel Prizes were awarded, becoming the ultimate recognition for future generations of great thinkers, leaders and scientists. Also on this day in 1998, humanity marked a new era of progression as the first astronauts set foot in the International Space Station.
But perhaps the most important of all December 10s was in 1948 where out of the horrors, genocide and nuclear fallout of World War II, the newly minted United Nations passed one of the defining resolution of our collective heritage, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Ever since then, December 10 is observed all around the world as Human Rights Day.
The theme for this year’s Human Rights Day, “Youth Standing Up for Human Rights”, could not be more apt to remind the growing numbers of disillusioned and apathetic youths all around the world that we are never too young, insignificant or powerless to change the world. In fact, the actions of youths can be powerful enough to shape future policies on a national and even global level, and should definitely not be underestimated.
Few of us are able to stand before bodies like the UN Climate Action Summit and deliver compelling rallying calls like Greta Thunberg that spark a global youth movement and shine the spotlight on traditionally ignored topics while overcoming existing institutional and political barriers. However, I believe that everyone can play their part in standing up for human rights in their daily lives.
The UDHR proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being irrespective of race, religion, skin color, gender, nationality, language and cultural differences. However, it is with profound sadness and alarm that human rights are increasingly being sidelined. Diversity, instead of being celebrated, is becoming progressively vilified and twisted by self-serving agendas to fracture societies and divide communities.
While globalization, the internet and social media has rapidly enabled people to connect with others from diverse backgrounds, it has ironically increased the level of emotional disconnection between diverse peoples as many people refuse or are unable to respect the rights of others, causing discord, misunderstandings and even violence.
Embracing diversity is no superficial act but must be practiced especially when conflicts or potential conflicts present themselves. Recognizing that people are shaped by their different cultures, communities and experiences naturally makes them perceive the world differently. This empathy and understanding are essential to reduce diversity-related conflict which is so prevalent in the world today where many people simply refuse to accept a different perspective.
Inclusion is the practice of leveraging on diversity to become agents of change for good in our respective communities. An inclusive society is innately one that is peaceful and harmonious through not only recognition of diversity, but also the respect for differences, acknowledgement of the validity of different cultural expressions and contributions, recognition of the value other cultures offer. By being a society that encourages the contribution of diverse groups, empowers peoples to achieve their maximum potential, and most importantly celebrates rather than tolerates the differences, we will be able to harvest and fuel the common good.
The concepts of diversity and inclusion should be no stranger to Malaysians. We have the good fortune of experiencing diversity of cultures, beliefs and languages without even having to leave our country. We also get to see firsthand how Malaysia and Malaysians not only strive to build an inclusive society among its people, but also strongly exemplifies itself as an inclusive society among its regional neighbors, Asean and globally.
I am therefore proud to be a part of a movement that champions the cause ― the DIYC Movement.
The DIYC Movement is an Educational Youth Movement born right here in Malaysia that seeks to enable youth to become ambassadors for embracing diversity and practicing inclusion and empowers them to become force multipliers by spreading the movement and its messages within their respective communities.
As the next generation to the world, with all its amazing people possessing so much potential for good, we should do our part in creating a better world for the generations to come. I hope that youth movements like the DIYC Movement can help shape the future of our region, Asean and even the world, and thus cement our generation’s legacy as that of the youth who stood up for human rights – the people who led by example, respecting diversity in cultures, identities, beliefs, languages and values, and through that created a truly inclusive society.
Former Secretary General DIYC 2018, Executive in the Chairpersons Office of United Kingdom & Eire Council of Malaysian Students (UKEC)