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Malaysia? Well, it is ranked 16th, and is the third most peaceful in Asia after Japan and Singapore. Not bad for a relatively young nation. Certainly an improvement and a jump from its 26th place in 2018. - NSTP/ASYRAF HAMZAH

AWELL-functioning government, low levels of corruption, low crime rate, acceptance of the rights of others and good relations with neighbours — these are among the factors that have made Iceland the most peaceful country in the world since 2008.

The country also has one of the highest levels of development. Most of the basic needs of the people have been met. There are food, housing and jobs, and free education for citizens, even through university.

Healthcare is also free. As a result, the people are happy. Experts agree that when a nation’s basic needs are fulfilled, and policies brought to fruition, there is less conflict.

The Global Peace Index 2019 report also lists New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark as the most peaceful after Iceland.

Malaysia? Well, it is ranked 16th, and is the third most peaceful in Asia after Japan and Singapore. Not bad for a relatively young nation. Certainly an improvement and a jump from its 26th place in 2018.

From an economic perspective, it is promising as it will bring in more foreign investments and attract tourists. Reportedly, Malaysia’s peaceful state is a model among its Southeast Asian neighbours.

Its commitment to peace stretches back to when it became a sovereign state after Merdeka in 1957. It is, perhaps, the only country in the region to have achieved independence peacefully.

Even the communist insurgency was ended through peaceful negotiations. And after the 14th General Election in May 2018, the power transition from Barisan Nasional to Pakatan Harapan occurred without bloodshed.

Compared with some conflict-ridden states like southern Thailand, Myanmar’s Rakhine State and India’s Kashmir, Malaysia is indeed blessed.

“Peace builds, strengthens and restores, while war destroys and tears apart.” Those are reasons why nations strive for peace.

Just consider this, the cost of conflict to global economy is huge —according to the Global Peace Index, it is a staggering US$13.7 trillion last year.

True, the peace that we enjoy is relative, but we should not take it for granted. “Relative” because there are issues, but it is a sign that the country and government is not a total failure as claimed by critics. Why do Malaysians harp on Jawi, vernacular schools, racial slurs, Chinese New Year decorations, Ponggal and claims of Islamic proselytisation?

Almost every other day we are bombarded by messages we don’t want or need, much thanks to the world wide web. We all share a connection — we are Malaysians, regardless of our race, religion and ethnicity.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pointed out that Malaysia’s achievements was because of its stability, peace and commitment to abide by the rule of law. “While Malaysia will never claim to be the perfect Muslim nation, its history of having peoples of different religions and cultures live in harmony is one it can take pride in.”

Let’s focus on the good and acknowledge our differences. Heads of communities or non-governmental organisations may want to regularly hold interfaith and interracial dialogues so that we can learn more about each other.

This Leader recalls a quote by Mexican-American musician Carlos Santana: “The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.” That’s what Malaysians should strive to be — instruments of peace.

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