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In Loving Memory: Tan Sri Zaleha Ismail

“I believe God purposely created us in different races, different areas…God aims to teach us to work together. If you are able to work together, then it becomes meaningful to live. God has created the world, created us, not only for one race, one religion or one group. Otherwise He would not have created all of us.” —Tan Sri Zaleha

We remember Tan Sri Zaleha Ismail (1936 - 2020), Global Peace Foundation Malaysia chairwoman, who passed away at the age of 84 after a long life of selfless giving beyond color and creed. She tirelessly worked to serve and help people and her community without expecting anything in return.

Tan Sri Zaleha Ismail lived an adventurous life, working as a radio jockey at Radio Malaya when she was only 15 years old and was selected as one of 20 youth leaders in Southeast Asia for a youth leadership program in the United States. She would later go on to become the Minister of National Unity and Social Development in 1995. Even after retirement from the government, she continued to serve in many NGOs, including Global Peace Foundation. Tan Sri was an advocate for family values and frequently chanted the slogan ‘family is the school of love.’ She exemplified a life of compassion towards the needy and embraced everyone beyond color, race, and religion.

Tan Sri’s words of wisdom remain with us. In 2018 she shared her perspective in an interview with Global Peace Foundation:

Growing up in Malaysia, no matter where you live, you are always able to get in touch with people of different races, from the Chinese man who ran the grocery store to the Indian lady who sold food down the street and the Malay Mak Cik who sells kuih every evening. To Tan Sri Zaleha, the diversity in Malaysia is not something that people have to always emphasize, but was always there in reality.

Not a stranger to diversity, Malaysia is home to people from many different racial backgrounds. Even as a young child, Tan Sri Zaleha went to school with other students of different races as most Malaysian children still do today.

Growing up, playing with other children was never a problem for Tan Sri Zaleha. Children are pure, she observed. They do not judge one another by race or religion. If we were able to mingle when we were younger, why would there be problems when we grow up?

In loving memory, we remember Tan Sri Zaleha Ismail and thank her for contributing her love, compassion, and life in service to our global family.