TAN SRI DR SYED HAMID ALBAR
INTERNATIONAL INTERFAITH PEACE CONFERENCE MALAYSIA (IIPC) 2023
HOTEL FURAMA, KUALA LUMPUR
15 JULY 2023
Ladies and gentlemen,
Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Prophet Muhammad S.A.W urged us all to take advantage of five before five: your youth before old age, your health before sickness, your wealth before poverty, your free time before preoccupation, and your life before death.
In one of his most memorable sayings, Prophet S.A.W affirmed that ‘the ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr.’ He taught Muslims that ignorance was humanity’s greatest poverty, that a mind without education is like a brave man without arms, and that knowledge brings people- irrespective of gender, age, race or religion- into the highest rank of human accomplishment.
It is an honour and privilege to stand before you today at the International Interfaith Peace Conference Malaysia (IIPC) 2023, discussing an issue of paramount importance—the role of youth in developing an inclusive and cohesive society.
I am Syed Hamid Albar, Chairman of World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation or WIEF Foundation. Apart from organising our flagship yearly Forum, we undertake various capacity building programmes on cutting edge topics such as future cutting age technology, Artificial Intelligence or AI and space- for various target groups- including youth, via WIEF Young Leaders Network (WYN). WYN’s flagship leadership programme, Young Fellows, focuses on creating a top-class leadership mentality in the next generation, coupled with a strong moral compass embodied in its philosophy of altruistic leadership under the tagline ‘Learn. Empower. Earn. Return’. Since 2012, WYN has managed to organise multiple programmes and activities all over the world, including in South Africa, Philippines, Spain, Malaysia, Singapore and India.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today’s youth are confronted with unprecedented set of challenges, including mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, due to academic pressures, social expectations, and the influence of social media. The ubiquity of technology and social media presents challenges like cyberbullying, online harassment, and the pressure to conform to unrealistic social standards. Navigating social relationships, peer pressure, and identity formation also pose difficulties. Balancing multiple roles and responsibilities can lead to overwhelm and burnout.
I urge each and every one of you to have a support ecosystem, which can offer you solace in times of need. This ecosystem should prioritise access to resources, including education and employment opportunities, as well as support for mental health and well-being. By addressing these challenges collectively, society can empower the youth to navigate their way towards a fulfilling and prosperous future.
The MADANI concept, introduced by our Prime Minister eloquently demonstrates the responsibility of an effective government and society in shaping the lives of young Malaysians, empowering them to become active contributors. It encompasses principles of moderation, harmony, and inclusive citizenship, all of which are vital for the development and progress of our nation.
It promotes moderation, encouraging youth to adopt a balanced approach in all aspects of live. In a world filled with extremism and polarization, this concept serves as a guiding light, fostering a sense of understanding and tolerance among young individuals.
It also emphasizes the value of harmony in society, calling upon youth to embrace diversity and appreciate the multicultural fabric of Malaysia. The youth should celebrate this diversity, viewing it as a source of strength rather than division. In the era of everything digital, cultivating soft skills is important too. Communication, collaboration, adaptability, and empathy are vital for your overall success in life.
My dear audience,
The youth is the backbone of our nation’s future, and your participation in social, economic, and political spheres is crucial for sustainable development. The United Nations state that in 2022, there are 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years, accounting for 16 per cent of the global population. By 2030 the number of youth is projected to have grown by 7 per cent, to nearly 1.3 billion.
As youth are increasingly demanding more just, equitable and progressive opportunities and solutions in their societies, the need to address the multifaceted challenges faced by young people have become more pressing than ever.
To quote the words of Pope Francis, ‘It is our duty to empower the youth, for they hold the potential to transform society and build a future based on love, respect, and interfaith harmony.’
The importance of character development and ethical values, by cultivating virtues such as honesty, integrity, empathy, and compassion, will lay the foundation for a compassionate society, where individuals act with integrity and show respect and care towards others.
As we look around the world today, we see many issues that require our attention and collective efforts. Inequality, social divisions, and economic disparities persist in various parts of the globe. If we truly desire a harmonious and prosperous future, we must empower our youth to become agents of change and drivers of inclusivity.
The youth, with their boundless energy, innovative thinking, and passion, are the driving force behind every society’s progress and development. In the context of an inclusive and cohesive society, your role becomes even more critical. YOU hold the key to building bridges, fostering understanding, and creating an environment where diversity is celebrated.
To quote Michelle Obama, she said, ‘The ability to read, write, and analyse; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in the door and take your seat at the table — all of that starts with education,’
It saddens me to learn that university was no longer the destination of choice for some school-leavers despite them doing well in their SPM. Data from the statistics department showed that in 2019, some 390,000 or 72.1 per cent of SPM graduates were not inclined to continue their studies.
These numbers were in line with the trend in other countries including the UK where, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, only two-thirds of school-leaving students said it was important to attend university.
One point I would like make across is this- there is a difference in being rich and being educated. While one is more desirable, the latter would sustain and foster personal growth, intellectually and emotionally. I urge each and every one of you to keep seeking knowledge and make lifelong learning part of your personal goal.
Your generation is up for an interesting future, to transition from Industrial Revolution 4.0 or IR 4.0 to IR 5.0. The focus now should be on developing digital literacy skills, including proficiency in using digital tools and platforms, AI, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Your ability to think and solve problems critically require convergence of multidisciplinary knowledge. This, and an innovative entrepreneurial mindset will set you off to a brighter future.
Active collaboration between industry and educational institutions should be strengthened to bridge the gap between academia and the job market. Involvement of industry experts in curriculum development, internships, mentorship, and apprenticeship programs will ensure that the youth gain practical skills and exposure to real-world applications of emerging technologies.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I believe that it is our responsibility to create platforms and spaces for young voices to be heard and valued- such as this event today. Youth are not just the leaders of tomorrow; you are the leaders of today. Your perspectives, ideas, and experiences are invaluable assets that can shape policies and initiatives for a more inclusive society. It’s high time for youth to participate in decision-making processes, whether it be in business, politics, or civil society organisations. By doing so, we demonstrate our commitment to inclusivity and acknowledge the power of youth in driving positive change.
Lastly, but most importantly, the youth must learn to embrace diversity, reject discrimination, and champion equality for all. By cultivating a sense of empathy and understanding, we can bridge the gaps that divide us and work towards a future where everyone feels a sense of belonging.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The role of youth in developing an inclusive and cohesive society cannot be overstated. It is incumbent upon us, as leaders, educators, and mentors, to provide our youth with the tools, opportunities, and values they need to make a positive impact on the world. Let us empower our youth to be catalysts for change, champions of inclusivity, and architects of a better future.
To end my speech tonight, let me quote the great Dalai Lama, he said, ‘The youth are the hope of our future. It is through their passion, energy, and creativity that we can build a more inclusive and harmonious society.’
Thank you for your time and for organising this event. May Allah bless our efforts today and always.
Assalammualaikum warahmatullahi wa barakatuh