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Beyond tolerance into cross-cultural understanding

on 29 November 2012.

HAPPY TO BE HERE: Azam CEO Dato Aloysius Dris (centre) chatting with IYCC delegates after one of the sessions at
Dewan Lagenda, Sarawak Cultural Village. Youths from all over the world gather to share their culture.
- Photos by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

Beyond tolerance into cross-cultural understanding

KUCHING: Go beyond tolerance into understanding and acceptance to gain better cross-cultural understanding.

This was the message from Blair J Daly, an advisor for the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange, Kuala Lumpur. He was the first speaker at the International Youth Culture Conference (IYCC) 2012, which kicked off at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) yesterday.

Daly spent an exchange semester in the Faculty of Social Sciences in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS). In 2011, he was awarded a grant under the US Fullbright Programme to assist the teaching of English at SMK Tengku Ampuan Intan in Kuala Berang, Hulu Terengganu.

After graduating from Withworth University in Washington State in 2012, he returned to Sarawak as a visiting volunteer teacher at SK Ba Kelalan. In his talk, the American Christian drew from his experience of being ‘adopted’ by and living with a Muslim family in Kuala Terengganu.

“The time I spent with them impacted me. Superficially, we are quite different but deep down, we are all the same,” he told the gathering of around 350 delegates during his session at SCV’s Dewan Lagenda.

He urged his audience not to stop at tolerance but reach beyond it to understand the difference between cultures and begin the journey to accept it.

GEARED UP: Participants in raincoats to face the drizzle during tea break in-between sessions.

“To me, tolerance has a negative connotation,” he said, pointing out that we normally tolerate things we don’t like.

While people are not equal in many ways, everyone is capable of the same things. We are all capable of good or evil. We respond to stimuli in the same way. We have common desires, for example, to have good jobs, to have families, to be happy.”

Daly pointed out that people are more similar than different.

“When we focus on extremes, we think people are worse than us,” he said. “Avoid extremes and keep an open mind. Strive for ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’.”

He asked the youthful crowd to consider doing part of their studies abroad for exposure to different cultures, adding that his own experience brought much personal change and new perspective.

“Yes, I love durians!” he had said earlier by way of self introduction, earning instant approval from the crowd.

Blair-Daly David-Bryan Suci-Rabella Fitria-Sudirman
 Blair Daly

 David Bryan
 Collado Lozada

 Suci Rabella

 Fitria Sudirman

Communications student David Bryan Collado Lozada, 20, said Daly’s personal experience was practical enough for the audience to apply to their own lives. Lozada, who hailed from Manila, The Philippines, said he signed up for the conference as he had always been interested in culture, and heard that Sarawak was the place to go for a hefty dose of it.

Final year law student Suci Rabella, 21, from Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, Indonesia joined the conference to make friends and learn about other cultures. With delegates from 19 countries participating in IYCC 2012, she is likely to get her wish.

“I’m looking forward to seeing cultural performances from Sarawak,” she told The Borneo Post.

When asked what she was looking forward to, Fitria Sudirman, 21, of Jakarta, Indonesia, opened up the programme book and pointed at the list of workshops for the morning of the second day at the conference.

“I’m especially interested in the ‘Social Media and Youth: Be Heard’ workshop as social media is used to organise our cultural movements back home,” she said.

Fitria, who found out about IYCC on the Internet, explained that she is part of something called the Lontara Project, a group of youths concerned about preserving their local culture.

“I’m also looking forward to seeing Zee Avi!”

IYCC is organised by Yayasan Perpaduan Sarawak (YPS). During the three-day event began yesterday, participants will hear from speakers from all over the world speak on topics like dialogue and mutual understanding, and role of youths in global peace-making. There will be numerous workshops to choose from and a panel discussion on ‘Culture as a Bridge to Global Unity’.

Delegates can look forward to a movie night featuring the winning films ‘Smiles of Unity’ and the late Yasmin Ahmad’s ‘Talentime’.

IYCC 2012 falls under the umbrella of the ‘March for Unity 2012’, a joint effort by YPS, Sarawak Development Institute (SDI) and Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak.

For updates, check the YPS Facebook page at fb.com/YayasanPerpaduanSarawak or #IYCC on Twitter.

Source : Borneo Post Online

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