The torrent of tributes for the late Soo Ewe Jin has highlighted, among other things, his myriad acts of kindness to people of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Through these selfless acts he revealed the intimate link that exists between kindness, on the one hand, and unity and harmony, on the other, in a society like ours. This is a link that we are not always aware of.

When a good deed is done to a person of another religion or community, the recipient perceives it not only as an act attributable to the individual but sometimes tends to associate it with his community. Of course, when something negative is done, it can also reflect — erroneously — upon an entire community.

Ewe Jin, whom I first knew when we were both living and working in Penang, seldom stereotyped people negatively. He celebrated the positive in his fellow human beings. Because he exuded goodness, he saw goodness in the whole of creation.

This was due largely to his strong faith in God. He was a living example of a person whose faith taught him to reach out to everyone, regardless of their religion and ethnicity. This is how faith in God should express itself in any society, especially in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society.

This is what the first principle of the Rukunegara means at the level of the individual. The Belief in God is a principle which should persuade all Malaysians to transcend their own religious and ethnic boundaries. It should inspire us to connect with the entire human family. Indeed, it beckons us to acknowledge God as the just and compassionate God of all the universes.

It is a belief that is so important at a time when a few relish erecting barriers to separate us.

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