Bringing people together in the spirit of “Bhineka Ika Tunggal”

By Wan Fakhira Wan Mhd Noor

“Bhineka Ika Tunggal” is the official national Indonesia motto that has been ringing in my head throughout my journey in Kelantan during this mid-semester break. In English, the words “Bhineka Ika Tunggal” means “Unity in Diversity”.

I’m no stranger to Kelantan since this is where my kampung is. This time around it is a bit different for me, instead of going back to my kampung with my family, I’m going to have an adventure with a group of strangers whom I have never met.

To be honest, I rarely get an opportunity to go on a trip for a long time. As this trip is organised by IIUM UNESCO Club in collaboration with Project WHEE (a social enterprise) we went to Kelantan for one goal, which is to learn about sustainable food production, to understand the unique lives of local organic farmers, and to participate in agriculture specifically on organic farming.

As a girl who grew up in a city, I have no idea about farming. I always thought that farming is really hard and it is what retirees or elderlies do in their spare time. The interesting part of this journey was that most of the participants come from different background and nationality. In fact, we do not even know each other.

As Kelantan is being portrayed by the media for its uniqueness in terms of the peculiar Kelantanese dialect, culture and history, it makes me ponder would the participants from other countries have a good time throughout this trip? We were informed by the organiser that we will be visiting several organic farms which required us to interact with the local farmers who have been living in Kelantan for ages.

As a student in IIUM, I am exposed to multi-cultural and multi-racial environment. I believed that understanding and tolerance is a fundamental to have a healthy society. Even though, each of us come from different background, having said that, imagine a group of people as  flowers, if they are likened to each other, it was bonding, and at the end of the day it would become a beautiful bouquet of wonderful flowers”.

Throughout the journey, I gain a lot of new perspective on life and there are many things that cannot be seen by our naked eyes. It can only be seen by our heart. First, as I went to Kelantan with a group of strangers, I felt reluctant because they are not the persons that I used to hang out with. Which actually takes me out from my comfort zone. Indirectly, it gives me an opportunity to empower myself not to be dependent of others.

As most of the participants comes from different background and nationality, it teaches me to respect and to be considerate of others people’s opinion. It knocks my sense to accept others how I want to be accepted. Also, it taught me to practise empathy and not to be so quick to pass judgement.

After spending five days with a group of strangers I can say that we should not let ourselves to define a person based upon his or her differences in background. It reflects back to the value of “Bhineka Ika Tunggal” which promotes diversity. The good thing of being a student in IIUM, I viewed the concept diversity as a positive thing. It allows me to experience different things outside of what we are normally used to.

Studies found out that lack of unity between races and cultures is due to mistrust, stereotyping, and language problems. When these problems are not paid attention to, they will lead to failure in accepting ideas, agreement or differences. Thus, it can be said that diversity is not always based on the background you come from but it includes your beliefs, opinions and thoughts. By being exposed to different kinds of people and cultures, it gives me the insight into how and why things work in one culture.

Everyone has something unique about them, we can’t always do things alone. With the different talents from a diverse community, together we can come up with something greater and our relationship with others can be strengthened. We should celebrate the differences and learn to work together. Most importantly, we should befriend with all people and accept the diversity that comes with them.

At the end of the day, we all are the same persons with differences in soul. To sum up, I can say that we go on this trip as a group of strangers, and we come back as a family.

IIUM UNESCO Club has been established since November 2014 and its establishment provides a platform for students to have dialogues on history, culture and civilisations based on respect for commonly shared values. ***

Photo credited to Project Whee

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