Diversity is always an issue, especially for multi-racial countries in Southeast Asia. Indonesia alone has over 300 ethnic groups and spoken languages. Singapore has six spoken languages (but their citizens speak multiple languages and mix them on a daily basis). And there’s more to other Southeast Asian countries.
These numbers exclude the interfusion between cultures that breeds a distinguishable new one, such as Singlish (Singaporean English), Peranakan (Chinese descendants whose ancestors came to the lands of Malaya), and more.
Culture clash is becoming part of our daily lives. But so does tolerance. It’s amazing how Southeast Asian countries have each survived as a unity for so long, despite breakouts caused by hatred and intolerance and country separations.
We are growing, but we need to stay alert of threats upon cultural, religious, ideological, and even political diversity. Southeast Asian countries still stand strong, but vulnerable at the same time. Recently, the threats are swarming in. The Rohingyas in Myanmar, protests against discriminated Papua in Indonesia, and racial political issues in Malaysia are just a few from many cases threatening tolerance and diversity in recent years.
To prevent such threats in the future, introducing diversity and tolerance to children is key. We teach our children what we’re most familiar with: our own culture. Yet, children need to learn from an early age that there are people outside of their ‘group’ and they need to know how to live with people outside of their circle.
Boundaries are the first lesson. Children need to know what is different about them and other people, so they know when they can join in and when they need to keep things to themselves. For example, Muslims are not allowed to eat pork and drink alcohol. So, when there are festivities involving pork cuisine and alcoholic drinks, they can still join the party but they need to avoid the porky treats and drinks. However, if we stop here, lessons of boundaries can grow into isolation or worse, hatred.
Respect and tolerance are the second lessons. But if we stop here, our children would become apathetic to others.
Whichever way you will introduce diversity lessons to children, the final lesson should boil down to celebrating diversity. It is beyond accepting each others’ existence. Celebrating diversity brings us to actually enjoy the differences between us. To not just respect our neighbours, but to also enjoy their festivities and invite them to ours. To not just live out of respect, but live out of the need for each other. Because it’s the differences that make us whole.
As part of our community, Yayasan Prima Unggul is providing education to orphans and underprivileged students across Indonesia. Focusing on developing entrepreneurial skills within the students, having them coming from all over the country makes the study environment a diverse one. Read more about them here and reach them through their official page.