By Wilfred Madius Tangau

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia-In the last week of the Year of Tiger, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim laid out his vision of nation-rebuilding: Malaysia Madani, with six values: sustainability, prosperity, innovation, respect, trust and compassion.

To build a stronger and more cohesive nation, we indeed need more respect and compassion towards each other. We should be empathetic and accommodative of each other’s reasonable needs, not just during festivals but throughout the year.

Here, we must reclaim the word “sensitivity” that has been abused by ethno-religious bigots as the all-season excuse to restrict the freedom of others and demonstrate subservience to them. “Sensitivity” should be a quality that we nurture in ourselves instead of demanding of others to suit our individual or collective ego.

In the indigenous cultures of many groups in Borneo, drinking rice or palm wine is part of the celebration of Harvest Festival (Kaamatan, Gawai, etc) and other festivals, but we do not offer them to our families and friends who are Muslim, because we respect their religious restriction. 

Neither would they expect us to not serve alcohol in our celebration, because they respect our cultural freedom. This two-way traffic of sensitivity is the real meaning of sensitivity.

Besides a mature and civil sense of sensitivity, we need to build resilience in ourselves. It is human impulse to feel insecure when we find others to be different from us or disagree with us. 
If we lack resilience, then we constantly feel threatened and our faith, culture or institutions simply because others do not think, speak, behave or dress like us. People lacking resilience tend to see a world of black and white and subscribe to conspiracy theories.

By definition, resilience overcomes insecurities. Resilience gives us the confidence to be different from others and respect others’ differences from us. Resilience allows us to smile when others are living their lives the way we would not do. 
Resilience enables respect and compassion. Resilience teaches us that we can be one loving family without being the same, because it is possible that ‘to you, yours, and to us, ours”.

We wish Malaysians a blissful year of Rabbit when mutual sensitivity and resilience grow amongst us. May all festivals of all communities in this year be celebrated without disruption by any egoistic, insecure and uncultured individuals or groups, driven by political calculations or otherwise.

Wisdom Foundation wishing Malaysians a Wonderful, Inclusive, Sustainable, Democratic, Open-minded and Merciful New Year of Rabbit, with prosperity and joy overflowing.