I am inspired by these messages and sentiments.
Oh mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.
(Qur’an, V.49: 13)
I take this to mean that ethnic – and, by implication, linguistic – diversity is a divine blessing, to be treasured and celebrated. If all of humanity were homogeneous in culture and language there would be no incentive to travel, to interact and to learn from one another.
Human solidarity is the only true wealth in life, mutual responsibility the only ethic.
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French novelist, 1900-1944)
I have not been able to trace the origin of this sentence. It is quoted in an article by Robert Macfarlane, ‘Air of danger’, published in The Guardian on 23rd April 2005 (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/apr/23/featuresreviews.guardianreview30). In fact from the article it is not entirely clear whether Saint-Exupéry himself wrote this or whether it is a summation of Saint-Exupéry’s philosophy written by William Rees, who has translated his work into English. Whatever the case, I find the sentiment inspiring; it takes us far above the petty sectoral and group squabbles that divide us from each other.
The quail coos and the nightingale sings,
Each in its own language.
Punjabi is the language of your mothers and fathers.
(Babu Rajab Ali, Punjabi poet, 1894-1979)
The poet reminds us that every language reflects and influences the culture of its speakers. All languages must be respected and maintained. To deny one’s own language is to deny one’s ancestry.
Orang Indonesia adalah siapa sadja jang menganggap Indonesia tanah airnja, tak perdoeli apakah ia Indonesia moerni ataoekah ia poenja darah Tjina, Belanda, dan bangsa Eropa lain dalam djasadnja.
(Ki Hadjar Dewantara, Indonesian political thinker and educationist, 1889-1959)
Ki Hadjar Dewantara – originally Raden Mas Soewardi Soerjaningrat – wrote these words in the magazine Hindia Poetra in 1919, twenty-six years before Indonesia declared independence and thirty years before it finally gained complete freedom from the Netherlands. His statement shows an extraordinary degree of tolerance and openness: ‘An Indonesian is anyone who believes that Indonesia is their nation, regardless of whether they are pure Indonesian or whether Chinese, Dutch or other European blood flows in their veins.’ Ki Hadjar Dewantara was Indonesia’s first Minister of Education after independence.