Reflecting from Russia on World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on March 4th, 2014

The Parliament of the World’s Religions recently welcomed Ermolina Galina of Siberia to the Ambassadors program. The following reflection shares the story of her interreligious community in Novosibirsk, Russia, observing the United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week.

World Interfaith Harmony Week inspires community gathering and interreligious excursions for Siberian residents. Shared by Parliament Ambassador Galina Ermolina.

The world we live in is overloaded with hatred these days, and religious conflicts bring us to disasters. What we need today is to change the paradigm of thinking from confrontations to understanding that we belong to one world, to one planet, to One God, whoever God is for each one of us.

My friends and I- being very much concerned about the situation- made attempts to find a possibility of cooperation between representatives of some religious institutions in our city, Novosibirsk, Western Siberia, (Russia).

In the beginning, I would not say we were very successful. Like anywhere, some religious representatives here are not yet able to speak cooperatively about different religions.

So when news came that the United Nations proclaimed a Week of Inter-religious Harmony from February 3 up to February 9, 2014, we decided to participate in a cultural excursion program organized by one of the public organizations working for peace in our big city since we had done events together in the past.

The purpose of this project was to get acquainted with representatives of the religions, to learn more about their unique qualities, so that it would become possible to start mutual cooperation of understanding and sharing on the basis of the Golden Rule.

Every day of the week, a group of people interested in the subject planned to visit this or that religious center, or church, or cathedral, following the list:

Bate Menahem Synagogue
Catholic Cathedral
Mosque
Church of Jesus Christ (Mormons),
Christian Church and Center of the Vedic Culture (Krishnaits)
On one of the days, a concert for veterans was performed by the student-volunteers of the Federation for Peace.

I managed to visit three events of the Week: Bate Menahem Synagogue, Church of Jesus Christ (Mormon) and Center of the Vedic Culture (Krishnas).

Personally, I have already been aware of diversity in interfaith relations because I have been many times during the last ten years in the Interfaith Community of the great Saint Baba Virsa Singh in Delhi and Punjab, where I have been significantly trained and acquired experience on the subject. Also, I have tried to stay active over the last three years as a member of the United Religions Initiative.

At the end of the week reflecting on the events of Harmony Week I have come to the conclusion that the event was not only interesting for the participants, but we learned a lot and gained new experiences in relations between the people of different religions. We hope that managed to make new friendships, for almost everywhere we were welcomed to come again.

“Unity in diversity” is one of most important slogans in the world, and we had an opportunity to see it in practice. Unity and oneness was manifesting itself in the warm hospitality, peaceful atmosphere of the meetings everywhere.

However, when our group approached the Russian Orthodox Church, we were given a chilly reception with the comment that special written permission was needed. Unfortunately, many of us have faced difficult policies and responses, and this may be one of the reasons for us to join the Interfaith movement.

It was such a disappointment for all, and the situation was saved somehow by one participant who suggested to go the very special Exhibition “Holy Religious Places” of Siberia, situated quite nearby. The exposition was created by Dmitriy Dobryi who started this project a few years ago after the vision of Saint Princess Olga who told him to collect paintings, photos and other artifacts of Churches and other religious institutions of Novosibirsk region in one place for the people to see them. He himself made an incredibly beautiful embroidery portrait of St. Olga.

People like Dmitriy are those fanatics who are devoted to the values of religion, which means “connecting with the Highest.” The fact that this exhibition exists and works is a miracle itself, for there is no financial support from officials, either church or civil.

Coming back to the issue of diversity I would say that have come to the comprehending the method which every religious institution applies to attract people to their congregation.

Belonging to Synagogue, first of all, one feels protected in the midst of the surrounding world, one feels being a member of one powerful community, where one can get help if needed. It attracts even the people belonging to other religions due to the nationality or native traditional religion.

We didn’t feel any attempt to woo us into converting to this religion. Even if one can have different points of view on some fundamental things, but one can admit and accept those values which are strong within Jewish Community.

The visit to the Mormon Center was a pleasant one as well. Most of the missionaries are young smiling people from the USA speaking good Russian. From the speech of the center leader we received a lot of information about the origin of Mormon movement, its history and the development of the movement today.

We were given some materials to read at home as well. Even though the Mormon Teaching itself is difficult for me to follow, our event was devoted not to discussions or disagreements, but to finding the things which we all have in common, which can bring us to cooperation.

The Golden Rule says: “By thy God”, not by mine. It is important to Mormons to proclaim love to Jesus and God.

Chowing down on delicious Indian-style food in the vedic house of worship during World Interfaith Harmony week in Siberia!

The last event, visiting Vedic Center was quite different from what we have seen before. Most of the people present there were young, and some come with children. I have been many times in India, and at some moments felt as if I was again there. The highlight of that evening was a presence of Indian Swami Ji, who had been touring through Russia for more than a month. He addressed the audience with a nice and wise talk, speaking about love and harmony between people, despite difference in religions.

Of course, he said much about Krishna and Krishna movement all over the world. That Swami Ji is a good example for spiritual leaders; he managed to connect vedic knowledge with every day life challenges in a good, not scholastic way.

I asked him a question what way would he suggest to stop violence in the world and the answer he had given made me happy, because it completely coincided with my thinking:

we should begin with changing the way of our thinking, with cleansing our mind. That’s what Baba Virsa Singh used to say again and again.

Bombs and bullets will not change the world,at any rate –to a better world.

It is known that “joy is a special wisdom,” and appeared that the Vedic group of people sincerely follow this rule through ritual dancing and singing. I don’t want to say that this is an example for all to follow, but they enjoyed that evening.

After talks and dancing, everyone was invited to have traditional vedic food, of course vegetarian. One of the guests belongs to the Orthodox church and came out of curiosity.

In a way the events and experiences of our project was a reflection of the situation between religions today.

In two days we came together to share experiences, reflection and for planning our future cooperation with the religious institutions of the city, taking into consideration the experiences we had during the Harmony week.

http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/news/index.php/2014/03/reflecting-from-russia-on-world-interfaith-harmony-week/

Azerbaijan can be world model for state-religion relations: UN

Posted on February 19th, 2014

By Jamila Babayeva

The Azerbaijani state’s measures to promote religious tolerance and dialogue can be an example for many countries in the region and the world.

UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser made the remark at the event “World Interfaith Harmony: Vital for Peace and Development” at the UN’s New York headquarters on February 12.

The event held within the World Interfaith Harmony Week, which the UN marks annually, particularly underlined Azerbaijan’s contribution to strengthening inter-religious dialogue and tolerance, the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations reported.

Al-Nasser further said that the Alliance also developed a partnership with the Azerbaijani State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations.

He noted that the National Tolerance Centre established by the State Committee serves for the promotion of direct dialogue among religious leaders and holding training and workshops on interfaith tolerance for religious advocates.

Al-Nasser said that the Alliance’s representatives look forward to visiting the Center very soon.

Azerbaijan is in the list of the top five tolerant countries in the world. The representatives of different religions live in an atmosphere of brotherhood in Azerbaijan. The country established the National Tolerance Centre on May 2013. The main aim of the centre is to support and promote tolerance and to provide the religious groups with mutual respects.

- See more at: http://www.azernews.az/azerbaijan/64487.html

World Interfaith Harmony Week celebrated

Posted on February 18th, 2014

Islamabad

 

World Interfaith Harmony Week was celebrated by Universal Interfaith Peace Mission (UIPM) from February 01 to February 10, 2014, says a press release.

 

UIPM endorsed, ‘A Common Word between Us and You’ in 2008 which is an open letter, from leaders of the Islamic religion to leaders of the Christian religion calling for peace between Muslims and Christians.

 

On 11th September, 2009 the then Ambassador of Jordan to Pakistan Dr Saleh Al-Jawarneh inaugurated the office of ‘A Common Word between Us and You’ at Jamia Masjid Mai Saleem Akhtar, Islamabad.

 

After the inauguration of the centre, several conferences on ‘A Common Word between Us and You’ were held in which it was highlighted that this historic agreement gives the right keynote for relations between Muslims and Christians in the 21st century. It also helped shelve the notion most religious leaders from other faiths perceive about Islam that Muslims don’t support them in the name of religion.

 

On February 01, 2014 a breakfast was arranged for members of different faiths at Balmik Hindu Temple, Lalkurti, Rawalpindi. Hindu Panchayat Committee Rawalpindi President Om Prakash, Pandit Chana Lal, Gudu Kumari, and Universal Interfaith Peace Mission Chairman Dr AGR Chishti attended the breakfast with Hindus and Christians of the area. Hindu leaders praised UIPM for holding such an event for interfaith harmony.

 

On February 2, a mass prayer was held at Baptist Church, Chashma Town, Islamabad. Accompanied by Pastor Arif Sardar and Pastor Aftab Ahmed and others UIPM Chairman AGR Chishti offered prayers for interfaith harmony. The pastors supported the cause saying Muslim-Christian relations are important and need of the hour for mutual co-existence.

 

On February 3, videos and speeches of different leaders from Islamic world on interfaith harmony were screened for students of Divine Light Public School, Islamabad. Dr AGR Chishti apprised the students about interfaith harmony.

 

On February 04, Universal Interfaith Peace Mission organised an Interfaith Harmony Conference at Islamabad Hotel, which was attended by, Sardar Muhammad Yusuf, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Afrasiab Khan Khattak, Senator, Chairman Functional Committee on Human Rights of Senate of Pakistan, Malik Amjad Husain Alvi, Chairman Tanzeem ul Aawan Pakistan and President Amnesty International Rawapindi/Islamabad, Zubair Ahmed Farooq Advocate, Global Trustee of United Religions Initiative for Asia, Islamabad Chambers of Commerce ad Industry Chairman Zafar Bakhtawari, Pandit Chana Lal and others. The speakers said that when unnecessary bloodshed in the name of religion is causing chaos around the world there is need to make concerted efforts to unite faiths and cultures on a platform theninterfaith harmony is the best possible solution. They also tried to dispel the misconceptions about interfaith harmony saying most people consider interfaith harmony as a movement, which interferes in religions. Interfaith harmony is not against any religion. The movement preaches every religion to follow the path and teachings of their respective religions, said Allama G R Chishti.

 

On February 06, Universal Interfaith Peace Mission organised a ceremony at Sir Syed Grammar School and College, Rawalpidi, which was attended by Principal Hafsa Saeed and General Secretary Qazi Hafeez ur Rehman advocate. They welcomed the interfaith harmony initiative of UIPM.

 

At the Juma congregation at Jamia Masjid Mai Saleem Akhtar, Islamabad, on February 07, Dr AGR Chishti spoke on interfaith harmony and ‘A Common Word between Us and You’. He said that celebration of world interfaith harmony week goes to ‘A Common Word between Us and You’, which has provided a common ground to the world for peace and shed light on interfaith harmony in light of Quran and Sunnah. On Feb 10 Interfaith Conference was held at the Islamia University Bahawalpur, Bhawalnagar Campus, which was presided over by Dr. Altaf Hussain Langrial, director campus. Officials from district Bahwalnagar, faculty members, social activists, students and people from all walks of life attended the conference.

- See more at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-6-233301-World-Interfaith-Harmony-Week-celebrated

CNY Faiths Converge at Interfaith Assembly in Liverpool

Posted on February 18th, 2014

A cross section of faiths and nations joined as one, at the fourth annual World Interfaith Harmony Assembly, held this year at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Bear Road in Liverpool. Nearly 400 people attended with fourteen faiths either performing or speaking at the event. The gathering was presented by Interfaith Works of CNY and Women Transcending Boundaries.

Before the start of the assembly new arrivals were directed to leave a painted imprint of their hand on a banner that was slated to be sent to the United Nations. The Syracuse Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of American Choir opened the program singing the traditional Harmony Song by C. Burgess, arranged by Dr. Joan Hillsman.

The history of the World Interfaith Harmony dates back to 2007 when The Common Word Initiative called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in dialogue around two common fundamental religious commandments: Love of God and Love of Thy Neighbor. On October 20 2010 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously established the World Interfaith Harmony Wee

Some of the faiths represented by performance and spoken word were: the Sikh Foundation of Syracuse, the Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church and Congregation Beth Sholom Chevra Shas, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Bhutanese-Nepali Hindu Community, Goddess Path/Wicca, Islamic Society of CNY, Church World Service, Liverpool 1st United Methodist Church, the Zen Center of Syracuse, The Baha’i Faith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

- See more at: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/02/cny_faiths_converge_at_interfaith_assembly_in_liverpool.html

Mutual respect can prevent religious conflict: Kurup

Posted on February 18th, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said mutual respect among the various communities of different religion and culture could prevent conflict from potentially hampering national unity and development.

“Each of us has our own religion and entitled to certain rights. But when an issue such as this (citing ‘Allah’) happen, we should appropriately resolve it by respecting each other’s religion and culture.    

“So when we have this respect we have unity, and the government can smoothly bring development and progress to the people,” he told reporters after launching the World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) 2014 here today.    

Kurup who is also the Promotion on Understanding and Harmony among Religious Organisations Committee chairman, emphasised that all religions advocated unity and desire to maintain it through understanding the beliefs of others and their sensitivities.     

Earlier, the minister led a group in a ‘harmony travelogue and walk’ activity at Bukit Padang which entailed visiting houses of worship and listening to religious leaders’ views on interfaith harmony.   

The places of worship that the group visited were Kota Kinabalu Buddha Tzer Ying Temple, Mary Immaculate Church, Sri Pasupatinath Temple and Masjid Nurul Hikmah. 

Meanwhile, state Community Development and Consumer Affairs minister Datuk Jainab Ahmad Ayid who attended the WIHW 2014 launch and participated in the walkabout, proposed that Jalan Khidmat in Bukit Padang be renamed ‘JalanHarmoni’, considering the side-by-side location of the houses of worship along the route.  

She said the route could even be a draw for tourists to see the harmony that existed among the local community despite their religious and racial diversity.     

“In life we cannot be too extreme in our religion. So this route would be a reminder to us to maintain that harmony,” she told reporters. — BERNAMA

- See more at: http://www.nst.com.my/latest/mutual-respect-can-prevent-religious-conflict-kurup-1.479748

Calling For Interfaith Harmony, Jakim Warns Against Challenging Muslim Rights

Posted on February 18th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: After accusing Christians and Jews of trickery in last week’s sermon, Malaysia’s federal Islamic authorities today called for harmony among religions but laced its message with warnings against any encroachment of Muslim rights.

In order to achieve harmony, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) insisted that Islam’s special privileges and rights, especially over the use of the word “Allah”, must not be disputed by anyone.

“The tolerance meant by Islam is for us to not overstep boundaries in things which have already been agreed upon,” Jakim’s sermon titled “Harmony between faiths” said.

“The pulpit also urges every party to not dispute things that are enshrined in the (Federal) Constitution and mutually agreed, in addition to not disputing Muslims’ exclusive rights,” it added.

The sermon talked of attempts by unnamed parties intending to upset harmony and tolerance among the country’s various faiths.

These attempts included so-called attacks against Muslims, with Jakim listing down cases where individuals called themselves messengers and gods.

While framed as a call for harmony and respect, the sermon simultaneously cautioned Muslims from being “too open”, especially in allowing non-Muslims to use “Allah” — the Arabic word for God.

Repeating its allegations from previous sermons, the department continued to accuse non-Muslims of wanting to use “Allah” for the purpose of misleading Muslims.

“The attitude of overstepping boundaries will be the catalyst towards confusion of the mind, schism in the society, and eventually will weaken the country’s socio-political stability.” it said.

Malaysia is currently grappling with an intractable religious conflict between Muslims and Christians over the word ”Allah”, the Arabic word for God, which culminated in a church in Penang being firebombed in January.

Other places of worship were attacked in 2010 over the same issue.

Tensions were heightened after Selangor Islamic authorities said it would begin enforcing a state enactment that bars non-Muslims from using “Allah”.

Jakim’s sermon today coincides with the United Nations’ World Interfaith Harmony Week, celebrated in the first week of February annually.

Last week, Jakim said that Christians and Jews are responsible for turning Muslims against each other and tricking them into losing their rights.

The sermon claimed that some Muslims were working together with the Christians and the Jews, and that this would speed up the downfall of Islam in Malaysia.

This led to criticism by federal lawmakers from opposition parties DAP and PKR that the department was exacerbating Malaysia’s religious tension amid the continued “Allah” row.

- See more at: http://malaysiandigest.com/news/486811-calling-for-interfaith-harmony-jakim-warns-against-challenging-muslim-rights.html

Express diversity in peace, understanding

Posted on February 18th, 2014

THE views expressed by Mike Holt of Restore Australia in The Courier on February 3 display attitudes which are unwanted and out of step in the 21st century.

This week marks the United Nations’ celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which Ballarat Interfaith Network, in conjunction with Ballarat City Council, marks each year with a community flag-raising event.

Religious bigotry and exclusionist attitudes belong in the past, the network says in response to the announcement by Restore Australia that it plans to letterbox people in Ballarat in an attempt to whip up opposition to the building of a mosque in Ballarat.

Ballarat Interfaith Network believes dialogue and conversation to be more effective in establishing social and religious harmony rather than publishing prejudiced statements designed to incite further prejudice.

They see greater benefit in building bridges of understanding, rather than in driving wedges of distrust between people of different faiths.

Ballarat Interfaith Network wants the Ballarat community to feel free to express its spiritual diversity in peace, harmony and understanding, and therefore endorses the building of Ballarat’s first mosque in a community blessed with many churches.

In this United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, Ballarat Interfaith Network is pleased that the building of this simple mosque is to proceed and supports “our Islamic friends in this endeavour”.

- See more at: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/2073276/express-diversity-in-peace-understanding/?cs=64

Interfaith harmony urged

Posted on February 18th, 2014

Islamabad

 

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Mohammad Yousaf Tuesday that in prevailing circumstances when unnecessary bloodshed in the name of religion is causing chaos around the world there is need to make concerted efforts to unite faiths and cultures on a platform and interfaith harmony is the best possible solution to address global issues, says a press release.

 

Addressing the Interfaith Harmony Conference, organised by the Universal Interfaith Peace Mission, the federal minister who was the chief guest of the conference said that government is making concerted efforts for peace in the country and if we are able to establish peace, then the whole world will see that Islam is actually a religion of peace. He also called upon the elements creating unrest in the country to change their stance for showing the world the true colours of Islam.

 

Malik Amjad Hussain Alvi who presided over the ceremony felt disappointment over the strife in the country in the name of religion. He said sectarianism has damaged the true image of Islam. He praised the efforts of Universal Interfaith Peace Mission for interfaith harmony.

 

Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Zafar Bakhtawari, Advocate Zubair Ahmed Farooq, Advocate Kokab Iqbal and Hafsa Saeed also spoke on the occasion. Passages from the Holy Quran, Bible, Granth Sahib and Geeta were also recited on the occasion.

 

Earlier delivering the key-note address, Universal Interfaith Peace Mission founder and Global Chairman Dr Allama Abul Fateh G R Chishti said that needless bloodshed in the name of religion is inflicting harm to peace around the world and there is dire need to follow the path of interfaith harmony, which is the best possible solution to address the issue.

 

He said unrest and chaos in the world in only because people and groups instead of following the actual teachings of their respective religions have formulated their own perceptions about religion. “It is because of such unfortunate circumstances, the people are parting their ways from religion instead of following it and the major sufferer in prevailing circumstances is our religion, Islam, which is suffering due to irresponsible attitude of few elements from within our own fabric but also from the intransigence of external forces,” he added.

 

Dispelling the misconceptions about interfaith harmony, he said around the world, particularly in Asia, most people consider interfaith harmony as a movement, which interferes in religions. Every religion has reservations about it therefore, I would like to clarify that major objective behind commemorating World Interfaith Harmony Week is that the movement is not against ethos or principles of any religion. In reality, the movement preaches every religion to follow the path and teachings of their respective religions. This movement is only aimed at addressing the problems faced by the entire humanity particularly the issues related to ozone depletion, deforestation and climate changes that are devastating the world. Therefore, global scientists have clearly stated that until and unless spiritual and religious leaders from across the world will not come onboard and work harmoniously, these issues could not be settled.” “The vast majority of people of faith live in harmony with their neighbours, whatever their creed, but each religion also harbours a strident minority prepared to assert fundamentalist doctrines through bigotry and extreme violence and this is issue we have address collectively,” he added.

 

He said in these circumstances celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week is a step in the right direction, he said adding although this week is celebrated under United Nations, however, the movement was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan and on his insistence, Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad bin Talal, who is also the founder of a movement, ‘A Common Word between Us and You’, which got credence from different religious personalities from around the world as well.

 

Universal Interfaith Peace Mission will organise different functions in connection with World Interfaith Week. On February 1st a ceremony was held at Balmak Temple, Lalkurti with Hindu community members; on February 2, a ceremony was held at the Conference Hall of the Jamia Masjid Mai Saleem Akhtar, New Sohan, Islamabad; on February 3, a mass prayer was held at Christian Church, Chashma Town; an interfaith harmony meeting will be held at Sir Syed Grammar College, Rawalpindi on February 6; on February 7, Allama G R Chishti will shed light on interfaith harmony in connection with teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah at Jumma congregation at Jamia Masjid Mai Saleem Akhtar, New Sohan, Islamabad whereas on February 10, Interfaith Conference is going to take place at the Islamia University Bahawalpur, Bhawalnagar Campus.

- See more at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-6-230659-Interfaith-harmony-urged

Jamil Khir, Kurup urged to lead efforts to calm religious tension

Posted on February 18th, 2014

PETALING JAYA, Feb 5 — Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Tan Sri Joseph Kurup should head a Putrajaya panel to ease escalating religious tensions in Malaysia, an interfaith forum suggested today.

As ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department — in charge of religious affairs and national unity, respectively — both were best-placed to jointly engage stakeholder from different faiths, said the forum.

“Can we have a ‘J and J’ co-chairman, Jamil Khir and Joseph Kurup? Because these are the two ministers in the Cabinet in charge,” said Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, the CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) Malaysia here.

“[There is] no point in having Joseph Kurup chairing one [discussion] and then Jamil Khir chairing another, I think we need both of them.”

Saifuddin also suggested the possibility of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself chairing the discussion.

The former deputy minister made the call in a forum co-chaired by GMM and the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) in conjunction with the World Interfaith Harmony Week.

A total of 65 members representing over 40 organisations of all faiths attended the forum in GMM headquarters today to air their concerns and hope for Malaysia’s religious landscape.

Among the organisations represented were the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), Islamic Renaissance Front, the Malaysian Bar, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia, and Sisters in Islam.

A recurring theme among the participants were the muted response from Putrajaya against growing religious extremism.

Putrajaya’s commitment for religious moderation was also questioned, as several members criticised it for funding right-wing Muslim or Islamist groups.

Several of the attendees also lamented the lack of interest from Islamic organisations, including the Malaysian Religious Development Department (Jakim) to join interfaith discussions and dialogues.

The recommendations and points from today’s discussion will be presented during NUCC’s second meeting of February 15.

Malaysia is currently grappling with an intractable religious conflict between Muslims and Christians over “Allah”, the Arabic word for God, which culminated in two Molotov cocktails being thrown at a church in Penang on last month, just as how houses of worship were attacked in 2010 over the same issue.

The issue worsened after Selangor Islamic authorities said it would begin enforcing the state enactment that it insists bars non-Muslims from using “Allah”.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/jamil-khir-kurup-urged-to-lead-efforts-to-calm-religious-tension#sthash.sNgEQ6ud.dpuf

 

Daily Inspiration: The Torah Teaches the Golden Rule

Posted on February 18th, 2014

This feature is coordinated by The Post-Standard and InterFaith Works of CNY.

World Interfaith Harmony Assembly: February 9, 3:00-5:00 p.m., Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4889 Bear Road, Liverpool – Free event

The Talmud tells a story of Rabbi Hillel, who lived around the time of Jesus. A pagan came to him saying he would convert to Judaism if Hillel could teach him the whole of the Torah (Jewish Scripture) in the time he could stand on one foot. Rabbi Hillel replied, “What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary.” My dad always instilled in us this “Golden Rule.” He was a warm, loving man who always treated others with kindness and respect. As we share World Interfaith Harmony Week, I continue to be blessed by these words.

Daryl Files is Co-Chair of the World Interfaith Harmony Assembl,y and is the Volunteer and Donor Coordinator at InterFaith Works. She was raised in the Jewish Faith.

- See more at: http://www.syracuse.com/living/index.ssf/2014/02/daily_inspiration_the_torah_te.html

World Interfaith Harmony Week kicks off

Posted on February 18th, 2014

Amman, Feb 4 (Petra) – Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Tuesday led a ceremony to launch the World Interfaith Harmony Week organised by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs at the King Abdullah I Mosque.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the U.N. General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by His Majesty King Abdullah II. Less than a month later, on October 20, 2010, it was unanimously adopted by the U.N. and henceforth, the first week of February is to be observed as the World Interfaith Harmony Week.

In his opening remarks, Awqaf Minister Hayel Dawood noted that King Abdullah had launched three initiatives in six years. The first was the 2004 Amman Message, which was directed towards the Muslims to identify them with the rules of their faith and their relationship with others.

The second, Common Word, was announced in 2007 to urge the Muslims and others to come together and enhance common denominators. The third initiative was the 2010 World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Those initiatives, he said, were not only political messages, but expressions of the reality of Islam which accepts other faiths, and a reaffirmation of the Islamic values, but not a response to pressures of the actual situation.

Dawood said that in some countries and at certain times, houses of worship had become pulpits for hatred, killing and violence instead of platforms for promoting love, cooperation, kindness, piety and knowing the others, which required a review of their message and priorities.

For the ministry, he said, the royal initiatives had set an approach that “we commit (ourselves) to and follow in its steps as we deem them an advanced and civilized understanding of this religion.” For that reason, he added, “we urged preachers and imams to study them and promulgate those concepts among the people for being a true expression of our faith and the holy book.” He said that ever since the emergence of the Jordanian state, its people had been living in a climate of interfaith harmony, without seeing any religious or sectarian bigotry, “thanks to our Hashemite leadership that comes up with such initiatives.” The Director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Centre, Father Nabil Haddad, said the Hashemite leadership had launched leading initiatives to propagate moderation and create a positive atmosphere to help formulate faith-based ethical, human and social criteria to forge a relationship among adherents of various religions.

He said the state had been alarmed by incitements to religious hatred and manifestations of extremism that emerged in the region and the world over the past two decades.

//Petra//SS 
4/2/2014 – 07:27:43 PM

- See more at: http://www.petra.gov.jo/Public_News/Nws_NewsDetails.aspx?Site_Id=1&lang=2&NewsID=139009&CatID=13&Type=Home&GType=1

Interfaith dialogue in Iligan highlights World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on February 18th, 2014

ILIGAN CITY, Lanao del Norte, February 4 (PIA)— An interfaith dialogue through Church-Masjid visitations activity among people of various faiths highlights the observance of the World Interfaith Harmony Week here in Iligan City and Lanao del Norte.

A mosque or Masjid is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The mosque serves as a place where Muslims can come together for salat (prayer) as well as a center for information, education, and dispute settlement. The imam leads the congregation in prayer.

The week celebration slated every February 1-7 is pursuant to the United Nations Resolution 65/5 adopted last October 2010 declaring the first week of February as the World Interfaith Harmony Week which gives importance and emphasis on interreligious dialogue and understanding as a way of bridging people.

It’s a way of enhancing mutual respect, understanding and unity among people of different beliefs and cultures, said Musa Mohamad Sanguila, director, Pakigdait Incorporated, Iligan City/Lanao del Norte.

Pakigdait, Inc. is spearheading the visitation on February 5, 2014 at Poblacion, Matungao, Lanao Del Norte, in coordination with religious and secular leaders from around the city and in this province.

The program starts with an interfaith prayer followed by a welcome remarks of the host town Mayor Aisha Azis and the presentation of the objective and rationale of the activity by Pakigdait Director Sanguila.

Sr. Liza Ruedas of Ranaw Muslim Christian Dialogue for Peace is tasked to do the Reading of the Resolution 65/5–World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Giving a minute to share their statement of peace and support are Prof. Sukarno Tanggol, Ph.D, chancellor, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT); Col. Demy T. Tejares, brigade commander, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army; P/SSupt. Madid M. Paitao, provincial director, Police Provincial Office-Philippine National Police, Lanao del Norte; Bishop Stephen L. Villaester, chairperson, Interfaith Council; Capt. Mohd Izzudin Ahmad of International Monitoring Team (IMT); and Kamran Shah of Non-Violent Peaceforce. Board Member Grecille I. Matalines of the First District, Lanao del Norte also give her message of peace and support representing the provincial government.

Invited as keynote speaker of the day is Dr. Potre Diampuan, Ph.D, the Regional Coordinator of the United Religions Initiative-Southeast Asia and the Pacific (URI-SEAPac).

The program ends with a sharing of the Beliefs and Practices by the Host Religion: Islam, and an open forum is handled by the moderator Director Sanguila.

Pakigdait ug Pag-Amoma Alang sa Kalinaw or Pakigdait, Inc. is an interfaith grassroot peacebuilding civil society organization based in Iligan City and Lanao del Norte. It has four services which cater to Grassroot Peacebuilding Programs, Conflict Resolution, Management and Transformation Programs, Peace Advocacy, LGU Engagement and Networking Programs, and Community Enterprise and Micro-Project for Peace Programs.

In his statement, Rev. Fr. Regino R. Quijano, Chairman of the Board Director, Pakigdait Inc. said, “In the community where the conflict is present, peace can be planted and nurtured.” (lvgabule, PIA-10 LDN)

- See more at: http://news.pia.gov.ph/index.php?article=1511391479810#sthash.9bukjMsr.dpuf

World Interfaith Harmony Week at Pagadian City

Posted on February 18th, 2014

By Jong Cadion

Civil society organizations, religious organizations, the local government unit, and public school teachers and students in Pagadian City marked the first World Interfaith Harmony Week last Saturday.

According to Corazon Mendoza, Silsilah Pagadian City Chapter coordinator for the Harmony Chain Initiative, the weeklong celebration is in line with the implementation of Republic Act No. 10525 declaring every first week of February as World Interfaith Harmony Week in the entire country and mandating its observance by the relevant government agencies.

Sultan Maguid Maruhom, Ummah Fi Salam (UFS) Executive Director and Interfaith Muslim convenor, said: “The theme of this year’s celebration ‘Strengthening Love for God and One Another: A Celebration of Hope for Life, Peace and Solidarity’ is a clear message that the collaborative effort from all religious organizations through Interfaith, CSOs and government agencies is one solution to achieve peace especially in Mindanao.”

Vice Mayor Divina Grace Yu cited that the first launching celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week is also a celebration of World Hijab Day, which aims to have one million Muslim and non-Muslim women worldwide wear a hijab for one day to improve religious understanding for peace.

- See more at: http://www.solarnews.ph/news/regional/2014/02/04/world-interfaith-harmony-week-at-pagadian-city#.UwNFc2SSxF8

Ambassador Speaks At Interfaith

Posted on February 18th, 2014

 

South Africa’s ambassador to the United States H.E. Ebraim Rasool opened the second annual InterFaith conference this past Sunday as part of the United Nations’ World Harmony Week.

The conference, organized by the College of William and Mary’s Interfaith club and the Diversity Initiative of the Student Assembly, celebrated World Interfaith Harmony Week.

College President Taylor Reveley opened the day’s events, speaking about the importance of religion in contemporary society.

“I do believe that religion has been one of the prime motivators, if not the motivator, of human behavior today,” Reveley said.

The keynote speaker, Rasool, was a prominent figure in the African National Congress during the struggle against apartheid. He explained that during apartheid, racism became a science and even religion was not immune to the radicalization of society. Even churches were separated by race. Eventually, Rasool said that religious cooperation helped to create harmony in the country.

“I think that one important lesson that we’ve learned is to not fall for the formal divisions between people,” Rasool said.

Rasool explained the importance of religion as a prominent force in modern society, despite the conflicts and divisions it can cause.

“Religion is not the problem,” Rasool said. “What needs defeat in the world is nihilism and extremism in violence. … [The proponents of nihilism and violent extremism] fight because they cannot embrace. They are the ones who need to die for their cause because it is so hard to live for their cause.”

“I think that there is a value in starting this dialogue of cooperation and collaboration in faith,” audience member Hannah Kohn ’15 said. “It is very relevant in terms of conflict in the world today.”

The College has 37 on-campus religious organizations run by students. However, scholars say that the current generation of college students is more secular than its predecessors.

“[Rasool] said that young people are straying more and more from religion,” Teymour Moinzedah ’14 said. “It’s not weird or wrong to have faith even though young people don’t identify with faith as much today.”

 

- See more at: http://flathatnews.com/2014/02/03/ambassador-speaks-at-interfaith/

Interfaith harmony

Posted on February 18th, 2014

No human life together without a world of ethic for the nations; No peace among the nations without peace among the religions; No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions; No dialogue between the religions without investigation of the foundation of the religions,” wrote the famous Swiss Christian theologian, Hans Kung, in his book, Global Responsibility.

Peace among nations and peace among religions or the lack of it is a major concern in the world today. As a result, now, more than ever before, different religions and organisations are coming forward to promote dialogue. It is in this context that the United Nations, after much deliberation, declared in 2010 to observe “World Interfaith Harmony Week” as an annual event to be observed during the first week of February.
In its resolution, the UN General Assembly pointed out that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace, thus establishing World Interfaith Harmony Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.
Recognising the need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people, the General Assembly said that it “encourages all states to support the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship, on a voluntary basis and according to their own religious traditions or convictions”.
As this particular week provides a platform when all interfaith and other groups of goodwill can show the world what a powerful movement they are, we will do well by asking ourselves three simple questions: One, whether we have ever felt the need to know and understand another religion, or at least some aspects of it, that is different from our own? Two, whether we have personally come across areas of conflict among different religions, be they dogmatic issues or behavioural ones? And three, given an opportunity, would we ever seriously make an effort to work towards harmony?
It is true that each one of us has our own specific religious beliefs and practices, but it is only when we try and get to know people of other religions and, through them, their religious beliefs, do we realise that as human beings the common values we hold far outweigh the differences we may have. This realisation can awaken greater interest in other religions which can be a good basis towards interfaith harmony.
Hans Kung, while suggesting different types of dialogues concludes: “Even more, we need everyday dialogue of all the people of different religions who meet and discuss daily and hourly all over the world on all possible occasions…” That would certainly pave the way for genuine interfaith harmony and world peace.

Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He can be contacted at frdominic@gmail.com

- See more at: http://www.asianage.com/mystic-mantra/interfaith-harmony-112

World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on February 18th, 2014

(From right) Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Juan Edghill, Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira, PPP MP, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran sitting in at the audience at the launch of World Interfaith Harmony Week today. (GINA photo)

- See more at: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2014/media/photos/02/01/world-interfaith-harmony-week-2/

Jakim’s anti-Christian sermon goes against Najib’s reconciliation initiative – WHY IS THIS?

Posted on February 18th, 2014

The Friday sermon of the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) yesterday saying that the division among Muslims is not only caused by a weak faith but also because of the instigation of Christians and Jews is a triple regret as it goes against:

The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Cabinet’s positive response at its Cabinet meeting on 29th January 2014 to the Pakatan Rakyat’s olive branch reiterated by PR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Sunday for a Barisan Nasional-Pakatan Rakyat Leaders’ Summit on national reconciliation to check worsening national situation in the country, in particular the worst racial and religious polarization in the nation’s history as a result of incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension by a small group of reckless and irresponsible persons bent on destabilizing the country through lies and falsehoods, even to create another May 13;

Najib’s advocacy of Wasatiyyah (moderation in Arabic) as important policy in ASEAN and world conduct of nations – affecting not only Islam but also in respect of all other faiths; and

The World Interfaith Harmony Week (3 – 9 February 2014) proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 20th October 2010 as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith as “mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace”.

The question that needs to be asked is whether Jakim officials who prepare the Jakim Friday sermons are aware and support the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on inter-religious harmony and dialogue, and in particular to Najib’s promotion of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) and the “Wasatiyyah” concept as well as Najib’s support for the World Interfaith Harmony Week every February?

In April 2012, Malaysia succeeded in getting the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh to unanimously adopt Najib’s GMM concept for “the voices of moderation to drown the voices of extremism”.

This is what Najib said at the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh: “The voices of moderation should be from all religious beliefs and faiths, committed to working together to combat and hence marginalise extremists.”

Najib advocated that the “Wasatiyyah” concept should address all forms of political extremism, including religious extremism, ultranationalism and radicalism.

He also proposed that ASEAN utilise the idea of GMM as part of its current agenda to raise the ASEAN value – the practice of moderation – at the international level.

He said: “If embracing and practising moderation has worked for ASEAN, it is not impossible for it to work in the global village.

“The movement of moderates is an important approach so that ASEAN can contribute to the world in achieving global peace.”

In February last year, Najib gave full support to the World Interfaith Harmony Week, a brainchild of King Abdullah II of Jordan, not only visiting the places of worship of the nation’s five main religions centred in Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur, but also addressing a gathering of religious leaders at his official residence Seri Perdana.

As Najib said last February, the “World Interfaith Harmony Week” sought to raise awareness and understanding between religions, for universal peace and drive the world to be a more progressive and prosperous.

Najib stressed that all faiths in principle promote moderation, through conduct and words.

Last February, Najib could boast that “if there is a country which wants to showcase itself as a model of multi-racial unity, I don’t think there is a country better than Malaysia”.

Was Jakim’s message written before Najib’s reconciliation announcement?

But Malaysia has lost its innocence, to the extent that we are chided by a Pakistani website which headlined a blog: “Malaysia no longer land of peace and tolerance”.

What has happened to the “Wasatiyyah” and three important principles which Najib said last February would be practiced and adhered by the people to ensure Malaysia continues to be a peaceful, stable and harmonious country and remain a model of world harmony – i.e. the principles of moderation, fairness and mutual respect.

The scenario of inter-racial and religious relations today is completely different from that a year ago.

For instance, the three Wasatiyyah principles of moderation, fairness and mutual respect are not reflected in the Jakim’s Friday sermon yesterday.

Was yesterday’s Jakim sermon drafted well before the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday to support a national reconciliation initiative to end the politics of dissension, acrimony, hate and incitement and there was an administrative lapse or breakdown of communication to ensure that Jakim’s sermon yesterday fully endorse and not challenge or question the authority and decision of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on national reconciliation?

Is the Prime Minister and the Cabinet prepared to draw a clear line that Jakim’s sermon yesterday is not reflective of their decision on national reconciliation to end the racial and religious incitement of hatred, conflict and tension in the country?

Will Jakim’s Friday sermon next week be any different?

Christians to break the ice

The Malaysian Insider reported today that Catholic Archbishop Emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam wants priests to go to the ground and meet other religious leaders to foster peace and tolerance.

“They should find out who are the Muslim leaders, the Hindu leaders, the Buddhist leaders and so forth, in their parishes,” said Pakiam, urging his Catholic priests to go to the grassroots level to seek out other religious leaders to work with them.

This is most commendable and exemplary attitude, for we cannot afford any “An Eye for an Eye” response or Malaysia will go blind.

What is the best way for Malaysia to celebrate “World Interfaith Harmony Week” this year beginning on Monday?

There can be no better way than for a joint Barisan Nasional-Pakatan Rakyat declaration fully committing both coalitions to ending the incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension and the kicking off of a genuine inter-religious understanding, harmony and tolerance Malaysia so that Malaysia can be the envy of the world as “the land of racial and religious peace and harmony” in the world.

I reiterate, for example, my belief that if the two coalitions of BN and PR are committed in their resolve that there will not be another May 13 in the country, and are prepared to do everything within their capability towards this end, there is no force in the country which can cause May 13.

Similarly, if the two coalition of BN and PR are prepared to be similarly resolved in their commitment to ensure inter-racial and inter-religious peace, harmony and understanding, it is not possible for the small group of irresponsible and reckless few to carry their nefarious and treacherous activities to cause inter-racial and inter-religious strife and conflict in the country.

- See more at:  http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=221452:jakims-anti-christian-sermon-goes-against-najibs-reconciliation-initiative-why-is-this?&Itemid=2#ixzz2tffYnDkt 

Schools not the only cause of racial polarisation — Ravinder Singh

Posted on February 6th, 2014

JAN 6 — The forum in conjunction with the World Interfaith Harmony Week in Kuala Lumpur yesterday is reported to have agreed that National schools are the breeding ground for racial polarisation and the education system is the root cause of the problem plaguing the country now. Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim told an audience of about 65 at the interfaith forum titled "A dialogue for harmony", that it was all about Malay supremacy in schools now.

The rot is not just in the schools. They are only a cog in the bigger wheel of “Malay supremacy” that has driven wedges between peoples of different races and religions who had been living harmoniously for decades in the past. Some other obvious cogs are the Biro Tata Negara, Perkasa which is financed by the government, academics like Ridhuan Tee, the AG’s chambers that are seen to be biased in acting against certain racial rabble-rousers despite having the law at his disposal to do so, Jakim with its incendiary sermons, and politicians who have personal interests above those of the nation.

Noor Azimah is said to have proposed that "the only solution is for the glory of national schools to be returned, which means we need more subjects in English in national schools, because right now, national schools are Malay schools and nothing more."

I don’t know whether she has been correctly quoted for it is naive to believe that merely having more subjects taught in English would stop the schools being “breeding grounds for racial polarisation”.

Even re-converting the national schools to English Medium schools will not make a change as the change depends not on teaching in English, but on the school heads and teachers and other people and politicians behind them.

I daresay that even National schools can be as glorious as the English Medium schools of the 50’s and 60’s if only factors like the following were strictly implemented:

 

  • the teachers and head teachers running these schools were as good as of those days,
  • the schools had a good mix of teachers of all races
  • school heads were appointed purely on professional merits and not as political rewards, and these positions were not reserved for Malays only. The best master-teachers, of any race, should head the schools. 
  • All important positions in the Education ministry, at federal and state levels,  were filled by professional teachers of not less than 20 years classroom experience and who had been outstanding classroom teachers and school administrators,
  • there is no political interference of any kind in the running of the education ministry and schools, e.g. preventing teachers enforcing strict discipline in schools, for without good discipline, there can be no quality in education. 

 

Persons do not make good teachers, school administrators or policy makers at the Ministry simply because they have paper qualifications even as high as PhDs. Things are made worse by politicians like education ministers who have no on the ground classroom experience, or put political interests above the national interest of racial harmony.

Teaching, especially teaching the very young, i.e. during their formative years, is a very highly skilled and morally responsible job. It is here that the foundations of inter-ethnic relations are built. This is the group that is most vulnerable to indoctrination which may be very subtle as illustrated by Sisters in Islam executive director Ratna Osman who said her sons were told in school that they could not mix with non-Muslims.

It needs a very strong political will to take positive steps to undo all the damage that has been done in the name of political expediency. Things that can be done more easily should be done straightaway, e.g. stop the fiery sermons that creature polarisation, disband the BTN, stop Perkasa, certain academics and the small groups of racial bigots who go about spewing hate-words and putting up banners to create ill-will, etc. 

Undoing the damage in the schools will take a very concerted effort as the adults responsible have first to be reformed, before they can reform the children, the next generation of Malaysians.

Let us not falsely believe that teaching more subjects in English is the solution to address racial polarisation in schools. 

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/schools-not-the-only-cause-of-racial-polarisation-ravinder-singh#sthash.gpY10zGh.dpuf

بمناسبة اسبوع الوئام بين الأديان 1 – 7 فبراير

Posted on February 6th, 2014

رعية مار يوسف للسريان الكاثوليك تحتضن فعاليات الأسبوع العالمي للوئام بين الأديان بتنظيم من بعثة الأمم المتحدة لمساعدة العراق ومتطوعي مبادرة يوم الثقافة العراقي

بغداد / أليتيا (aleteia.org/ar) احتضنت رعية مار يوسف للسريان الكاثوليك صباح يوم السبت، الأول من شباط، فبراير الحالي فعاليات الأسبوع العالمي للوئام بين الأديان والذي نظمته بعثة الأمم المتحدة لمساعدة العراق (يونامي) ومتطوعي مبادرة يوم الثقافة العراقي وبحضور ممثل بعثة الأمم المتحدة السيد نيكولاي ميلادينوف والوفد المرافق له مع حضور العديد من الشخصيات الدينية والسياسية والعلماء والخطباء المسلمون ووكيل رئيس طائفة الصابئة المندائيين وممثل عن الديانة الإيزيدية وعضوة من مجلس النواب العراقي وممثل عن وزارة الثقافة العراقية وعدد غفير من الحضور متمثلين بالشباب الذين تم دعوتهم عبر شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي. وفي كلمته قال ممثل الأمم المتحدة السيد ميلادينوف ” ان العراق يواجه اليوم تحديات أمنية عديدة غير مسبوقة لذا يجب على الجميع إظهار علامات التسامح والمودة والتماسك وأضاف في كلمته قائلاً أن رسالة السلام والوئام ما هي إلا علامة التآخي بين الاديان والتعايش عبر حرية العبادة والضمير والحوار المسؤول وختم كلمته مناشداً الشباب الى ان يكونوا علامة الوئام بين المختلفين واصفا اياهم ببناة المستقبل وبناة الاجيال .
وقد تضمن اللقاء عدداً من الكلمات القيمة التي أُلقيت من قبل السادة الحضور وقد اجمعت كلماتهم كلها على ان رسالة الوئام التي تحملها الاديان ما هي الا رسالة المحبة والحوار وقبول الاخر . مع بعض الفعاليات الفنية بالعزف على الآلات الموسيقية والرسم. وفي الختام دخل الجميع عبر مسيرة من الباب الملوكي إلى مذبح الكنيسة وهم حاملون الشموع حيث تشابكت الأيادي علامة الوئام والحدة والسلام وألقى خوري الرعية المونسنيور بيوس قاشا صلاة إرتجالية دعا فيها الحاضرين ان يرفعوا انظارهم الى رب السماء الرحمن الرحيم ليمنح شرقنا وعراقنا السلام والامان . ثم كانت الصورة التذكارية للحضور…
ومن الجدير ذكره ففي العشرين من اكتوبر عام 2010 أنشأت الجمعية العامة للامم المتحدة بالاجماع اسبوع الوئام العالمي بين الاديان من خلال اعتماد قرار الامم المتحدة . يرّوج لثقافة السلام واللاعنف والتفاهم الديني والثقافي ، واعلن الاسبوع الاول من شهر فبراير من كل عام اسبوع الوئام بين الاديان والعقائد والمعتقدات من اجل تشجيع الدول على دعم انتشار رسالة سلمية من الاديان وحسن النية في اماكن العبادة .

World Interfaith Harmony Week kicks off

Posted on February 6th, 2014

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Tuesday led a ceremony to launch the World Interfaith Harmony Week organised by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs at the King Abdullah I Mosque.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the U.N. General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by His Majesty King Abdullah II. Less than a month later, on October 20, 2010, it was unanimously adopted by the U.N. and henceforth, the first week of February is to be observed as the World Interfaith Harmony Week.

In his opening remarks, Awqaf Minister Hayel Dawood noted that King Abdullah had launched three initiatives in six years. The first was the 2004 Amman Message, which was directed towards the Muslims to identify them with the rules of their faith and their relationship with others.

The second, Common Word, was announced in 2007 to urge the Muslims and others to come together and enhance common denominators. The third initiative was the 2010 World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Those initiatives, he said, were not only political messages, but expressions of the reality of Islam which accepts other faiths, and a reaffirmation of the Islamic values, but not a response to pressures of the actual situation.

Dawood said that in some countries and at certain times, houses of worship had become pulpits for hatred, killing and violence instead of platforms for promoting love, cooperation, kindness, piety and knowing the others, which required a review of their message and priorities.

For the ministry, he said, the royal initiatives had set an approach that "we commit (ourselves) to and follow in its steps as we deem them an advanced and civilized understanding of this religion." For that reason, he added, "we urged preachers and imams to study them and promulgate those concepts among the people for being a true expression of our faith and the holy book." He said that ever since the emergence of the Jordanian state, its people had been living in a climate of interfaith harmony, without seeing any religious or sectarian bigotry, "thanks to our Hashemite leadership that comes up with such initiatives." The Director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Centre, Father Nabil Haddad, said the Hashemite leadership had launched leading initiatives to propagate moderation and create a positive atmosphere to help formulate faith-based ethical, human and social criteria to forge a relationship among adherents of various religions.

He said the state had been alarmed by incitements to religious hatred and manifestations of extremism that emerged in the region and the world over the past two decades.

Interfaith harmony urged

Posted on February 6th, 2014

Islamabad

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Mohammad Yousaf Tuesday that in prevailing circumstances when unnecessary bloodshed in the name of religion is causing chaos around the world there is need to make concerted efforts to unite faiths and cultures on a platform and interfaith harmony is the best possible solution to address global issues, says a press release.

Addressing the Interfaith Harmony Conference, organised by the Universal Interfaith Peace Mission, the federal minister who was the chief guest of the conference said that government is making concerted efforts for peace in the country and if we are able to establish peace, then the whole world will see that Islam is actually a religion of peace. He also called upon the elements creating unrest in the country to change their stance for showing the world the true colours of Islam.

Malik Amjad Hussain Alvi who presided over the ceremony felt disappointment over the strife in the country in the name of religion. He said sectarianism has damaged the true image of Islam. He praised the efforts of Universal Interfaith Peace Mission for interfaith harmony.

Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Zafar Bakhtawari, Advocate Zubair Ahmed Farooq, Advocate Kokab Iqbal and Hafsa Saeed also spoke on the occasion. Passages from the Holy Quran, Bible, Granth Sahib and Geeta were also recited on the occasion.

Earlier delivering the key-note address, Universal Interfaith Peace Mission founder and Global Chairman Dr Allama Abul Fateh G R Chishti said that needless bloodshed in the name of religion is inflicting harm to peace around the world and there is dire need to follow the path of interfaith harmony, which is the best possible solution to address the issue.

He said unrest and chaos in the world in only because people and groups instead of following the actual teachings of their respective religions have formulated their own perceptions about religion. “It is because of such unfortunate circumstances, the people are parting their ways from religion instead of following it and the major sufferer in prevailing circumstances is our religion, Islam, which is suffering due to irresponsible attitude of few elements from within our own fabric but also from the intransigence of external forces,” he added.

Dispelling the misconceptions about interfaith harmony, he said around the world, particularly in Asia, most people consider interfaith harmony as a movement, which interferes in religions. Every religion has reservations about it therefore, I would like to clarify that major objective behind commemorating World Interfaith Harmony Week is that the movement is not against ethos or principles of any religion. In reality, the movement preaches every religion to follow the path and teachings of their respective religions. This movement is only aimed at addressing the problems faced by the entire humanity particularly the issues related to ozone depletion, deforestation and climate changes that are devastating the world. Therefore, global scientists have clearly stated that until and unless spiritual and religious leaders from across the world will not come onboard and work harmoniously, these issues could not be settled.” “The vast majority of people of faith live in harmony with their neighbours, whatever their creed, but each religion also harbours a strident minority prepared to assert fundamentalist doctrines through bigotry and extreme violence and this is issue we have address collectively,” he added.

He said in these circumstances celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week is a step in the right direction, he said adding although this week is celebrated under United Nations, however, the movement was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan and on his insistence, Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad bin Talal, who is also the founder of a movement, ‘A Common Word between Us and You’, which got credence from different religious personalities from around the world as well.

Universal Interfaith Peace Mission will organise different functions in connection with World Interfaith Week. On February 1st a ceremony was held at Balmak Temple, Lalkurti with Hindu community members; on February 2, a ceremony was held at the Conference Hall of the Jamia Masjid Mai Saleem Akhtar, New Sohan, Islamabad; on February 3, a mass prayer was held at Christian Church, Chashma Town; an interfaith harmony meeting will be held at Sir Syed Grammar College, Rawalpindi on February 6; on February 7, Allama G R Chishti will shed light on interfaith harmony in connection with teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah at Jumma congregation at Jamia Masjid Mai Saleem Akhtar, New Sohan, Islamabad whereas on February 10, Interfaith Conference is going to take place at the Islamia University Bahawalpur, Bhawalnagar Campus.

Jamil Khir, Kurup urged to lead efforts to calm religious tension

Posted on February 6th, 2014

PETALING JAYA, Feb 5 — Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Tan Sri Joseph Kurup should head a Putrajaya panel to ease escalating religious tensions in Malaysia, an interfaith forum suggested today.

As ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department — in charge of religious affairs and national unity, respectively — both were best-placed to jointly engage stakeholder from different faiths, said the forum.

“Can we have a ‘J and J’ co-chairman, Jamil Khir and Joseph Kurup? Because these are the two ministers in the Cabinet in charge,” said Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, the CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) Malaysia here.

“[There is] no point in having Joseph Kurup chairing one [discussion] and then Jamil Khir chairing another, I think we need both of them.”

Saifuddin also suggested the possibility of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself chairing the discussion.

The former deputy minister made the call in a forum co-chaired by GMM and the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) in conjunction with the World Interfaith Harmony Week.

A total of 65 members representing over 40 organisations of all faiths attended the forum in GMM headquarters today to air their concerns and hope for Malaysia’s religious landscape.

Among the organisations represented were the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), Islamic Renaissance Front, the Malaysian Bar, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia, and Sisters in Islam.

A recurring theme among the participants were the muted response from Putrajaya against growing religious extremism.

Putrajaya’s commitment for religious moderation was also questioned, as several members criticised it for funding right-wing Muslim or Islamist groups.

Several of the attendees also lamented the lack of interest from Islamic organisations, including the Malaysian Religious Development Department (Jakim) to join interfaith discussions and dialogues.

The recommendations and points from today’s discussion will be presented during NUCC’s second meeting of February 15.

Malaysia is currently grappling with an intractable religious conflict between Muslims and Christians over “Allah”, the Arabic word for God, which culminated in two Molotov cocktails being thrown at a church in Penang on last month, just as how houses of worship were attacked in 2010 over the same issue.

The issue worsened after Selangor Islamic authorities said it would begin enforcing the state enactment that it insists bars non-Muslims from using “Allah”.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/jamil-khir-kurup-urged-to-lead-efforts-to-calm-religious-tension#sthash.bTLHHij3.dpuf

Daily Inspiration: The Torah Teaches the Golden Rule

Posted on February 6th, 2014

The Talmud tells a story of Rabbi Hillel, who lived around the time of Jesus. A pagan came to him saying he would convert to Judaism if Hillel could teach him the whole of the Torah (Jewish Scripture) in the time he could stand on one foot. Rabbi Hillel replied, "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary." My dad always instilled in us this "Golden Rule." He was a warm, loving man who always treated others with kindness and respect. As we share World Interfaith Harmony Week, I continue to be blessed by these words.

Daryl Files is Co-Chair of the World Interfaith Harmony Assembl,y and is the Volunteer and Donor Coordinator at InterFaith Works. She was raised in the Jewish Faith.

World Interfaith Harmony Week kicks off

Posted on February 6th, 2014

Amman, Feb 4 (Petra) – Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Tuesday led a ceremony to launch the World Interfaith Harmony Week organised by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs at the King Abdullah I Mosque.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the U.N. General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by His Majesty King Abdullah II. Less than a month later, on October 20, 2010, it was unanimously adopted by the U.N. and henceforth, the first week of February is to be observed as the World Interfaith Harmony Week.
In his opening remarks, Awqaf Minister Hayel Dawood noted that King Abdullah had launched three initiatives in six years. The first was the 2004 Amman Message, which was directed towards the Muslims to identify them with the rules of their faith and their relationship with others.
The second, Common Word, was announced in 2007 to urge the Muslims and others to come together and enhance common denominators. The third initiative was the 2010 World Interfaith Harmony Week.
Those initiatives, he said, were not only political messages, but expressions of the reality of Islam which accepts other faiths, and a reaffirmation of the Islamic values, but not a response to pressures of the actual situation.
Dawood said that in some countries and at certain times, houses of worship had become pulpits for hatred, killing and violence instead of platforms for promoting love, cooperation, kindness, piety and knowing the others, which required a review of their message and priorities.
For the ministry, he said, the royal initiatives had set an approach that “we commit (ourselves) to and follow in its steps as we deem them an advanced and civilized understanding of this religion.” For that reason, he added, “we urged preachers and imams to study them and promulgate those concepts among the people for being a true expression of our faith and the holy book.” He said that ever since the emergence of the Jordanian state, its people had been living in a climate of interfaith harmony, without seeing any religious or sectarian bigotry, “thanks to our Hashemite leadership that comes up with such initiatives.” The Director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Centre, Father Nabil Haddad, said the Hashemite leadership had launched leading initiatives to propagate moderation and create a positive atmosphere to help formulate faith-based ethical, human and social criteria to forge a relationship among adherents of various religions.
He said the state had been alarmed by incitements to religious hatred and manifestations of extremism that emerged in the region and the world over the past two decades.
//Petra//SS 
4/2/2014 – 07:27:43 PM

Interfaith dialogue in Iligan highlights World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on February 6th, 2014

ILIGAN CITY, Lanao del Norte, February 4 (PIA)— An interfaith dialogue through Church-Masjid visitations activity among people of various faiths highlights the observance of the World Interfaith Harmony Week here in Iligan City and Lanao del Norte.

A mosque or Masjid is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The mosque serves as a place where Muslims can come together for salat (prayer) as well as a center for information, education, and dispute settlement. The imam leads the congregation in prayer.

The week celebration slated every February 1-7 is pursuant to the United Nations Resolution 65/5 adopted last October 2010 declaring the first week of February as the World Interfaith Harmony Week which gives importance and emphasis on interreligious dialogue and understanding as a way of bridging people.

It’s a way of enhancing mutual respect, understanding and unity among people of different beliefs and cultures, said Musa Mohamad Sanguila, director, Pakigdait Incorporated, Iligan City/Lanao del Norte.

Pakigdait, Inc. is spearheading the visitation on February 5, 2014 at Poblacion, Matungao, Lanao Del Norte, in coordination with religious and secular leaders from around the city and in this province.

The program starts with an interfaith prayer followed by a welcome remarks of the host town Mayor Aisha Azis and the presentation of the objective and rationale of the activity by Pakigdait Director Sanguila.

Sr. Liza Ruedas of Ranaw Muslim Christian Dialogue for Peace is tasked to do the Reading of the Resolution 65/5–World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Giving a minute to share their statement of peace and support are Prof. Sukarno Tanggol, Ph.D, chancellor, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT); Col. Demy T. Tejares, brigade commander, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army; P/SSupt. Madid M. Paitao, provincial director, Police Provincial Office-Philippine National Police, Lanao del Norte; Bishop Stephen L. Villaester, chairperson, Interfaith Council; Capt. Mohd Izzudin Ahmad of International Monitoring Team (IMT); and Kamran Shah of Non-Violent Peaceforce. Board Member Grecille I. Matalines of the First District, Lanao del Norte also give her message of peace and support representing the provincial government.

Invited as keynote speaker of the day is Dr. Potre Diampuan, Ph.D, the Regional Coordinator of the United Religions Initiative-Southeast Asia and the Pacific (URI-SEAPac).

The program ends with a sharing of the Beliefs and Practices by the Host Religion: Islam, and an open forum is handled by the moderator Director Sanguila.

Pakigdait ug Pag-Amoma Alang sa Kalinaw or Pakigdait, Inc. is an interfaith grassroot peacebuilding civil society organization based in Iligan City and Lanao del Norte. It has four services which cater to Grassroot Peacebuilding Programs, Conflict Resolution, Management and Transformation Programs, Peace Advocacy, LGU Engagement and Networking Programs, and Community Enterprise and Micro-Project for Peace Programs.

In his statement, Rev. Fr. Regino R. Quijano, Chairman of the Board Director, Pakigdait Inc. said, “In the community where the conflict is present, peace can be planted and nurtured.” (lvgabule, PIA-10 LDN)

- See more at: http://news.pia.gov.ph/index.php?article=1511391479810#sthash.fGVMJ45E.dpuf

World Interfaith Harmony Week at Pagadian City

Posted on February 6th, 2014

By Jong Cadion

Civil society organizations, religious organizations, the local government unit, and public school teachers and students in Pagadian City marked the first World Interfaith Harmony Week last Saturday.

According to Corazon Mendoza, Silsilah Pagadian City Chapter coordinator for the Harmony Chain Initiative, the weeklong celebration is in line with the implementation of Republic Act No. 10525 declaring every first week of February as World Interfaith Harmony Week in the entire country and mandating its observance by the relevant government agencies.

Sultan Maguid Maruhom, Ummah Fi Salam (UFS) Executive Director and Interfaith Muslim convenor, said: “The theme of this year’s celebration ‘Strengthening Love for God and One Another: A Celebration of Hope for Life, Peace and Solidarity’ is a clear message that the collaborative effort from all religious organizations through Interfaith, CSOs and government agencies is one solution to achieve peace especially in Mindanao."

Vice Mayor Divina Grace Yu cited that the first launching celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week is also a celebration of World Hijab Day, which aims to have one million Muslim and non-Muslim women worldwide wear a hijab for one day to improve religious understanding for peace.

Ambassador Speaks At Interfaith

Posted on February 6th, 2014

South Africa’s ambassador to the United States H.E. Ebraim Rasool opened the second annual InterFaith conference this past Sunday as part of the United Nations’ World Harmony Week.

The conference, organized by the College of William and Mary’s Interfaith club and the Diversity Initiative of the Student Assembly, celebrated World Interfaith Harmony Week.

College President Taylor Reveley opened the day’s events, speaking about the importance of religion in contemporary society.

“I do believe that religion has been one of the prime motivators, if not the motivator, of human behavior today,” Reveley said.

The keynote speaker, Rasool, was a prominent figure in the African National Congress during the struggle against apartheid. He explained that during apartheid, racism became a science and even religion was not immune to the radicalization of society. Even churches were separated by race. Eventually, Rasool said that religious cooperation helped to create harmony in the country.

“I think that one important lesson that we’ve learned is to not fall for the formal divisions between people,” Rasool said.

Rasool explained the importance of religion as a prominent force in modern society, despite the conflicts and divisions it can cause.

“Religion is not the problem,” Rasool said. “What needs defeat in the world is nihilism and extremism in violence. … [The proponents of nihilism and violent extremism] fight because they cannot embrace. They are the ones who need to die for their cause because it is so hard to live for their cause.”

“I think that there is a value in starting this dialogue of cooperation and collaboration in faith,” audience member Hannah Kohn ’15 said. “It is very relevant in terms of conflict in the world today.”

The College has 37 on-campus religious organizations run by students. However, scholars say that the current generation of college students is more secular than its predecessors.

“[Rasool] said that young people are straying more and more from religion,” Teymour Moinzedah ’14 said. “It’s not weird or wrong to have faith even though young people don’t identify with faith as much today.”

Malaysia a ‘sick’ example of disharmony, Kit Siang says

Posted on February 6th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 —  Putrajaya’s silence in the face of the latest claim of a Christian ploy to strip Muslims of their rights is proof that Malaysia has become a “sick example” of racial disharmony, Lim Kit Siang said today.

The DAP adviser demanded answers to why the accusation by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) had been permitted in last week’s Friday sermon, and reminded the Najib administration of its pledges during last year’s World Interfaith Harmony Week.

“Malaysia was in the global forefront last year in the celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week,” Lim said in a statement here.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week, a brainchild of King Abdullah of Jordan that was endorsed in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly, is a global celebration that kicks off today and goes on until February 9.

Last year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak visited numerous places of worship to commemorate the celebration and held a gathering of religious leaders at his official residence in Putrajaya, Lim recalled.

The nation’s chief executive had also boasted during the week that, “if there is a country which wants to showcase itself as a model of multiracial unity, I don’t think there is a country better than Malaysia”, the Gelang Patah MP added.

But this year, Lim said, despite the numerous religious and racially-charged incidents like the recent firebombing at a Penang church, Putrajaya has chosen to remain silent for the week.

The DAP veteran said he visited the National Unity and Integration Department’s website to look for the list of activities planned to celebrate the 2014 World Interfaith Harmony Week but found no reference to any such programme.

“As if the department is quite abashed about the whole subject this year,” Lim said.

He asked if Najib dared to repeat the same boast he made last year on Malaysia’s state of interfaith harmony, particularly since the country recently witnessed one too many incidents that have only signalled worsening racial strife.

“In fact, in the past weeks and months, Malaysia has become a sick example of ‘interfaith disharmony’ in a multi-racial multi-religious country,” Lim said.

Najib’s administration has come under heavy fire from Malaysia’s religious minorities over the “Allah” issue, a four-year-old religious controversy that threatens to rip apart Christian and Muslim unity.

The touchy issue resurfaced on January 2 when the Selangor Islamic Religious Department raided the Bible Society of Malaysia and confiscated over 300 Malay and Iban language bibles.

Najib met last week with over 40 Malay Muslim groups to calm simmering tempers over the long drawn out “Allah” dispute but critics have continued to flay the leader for failing to offer a final solution to the row.

Adding fuel to fire, Jakim accused Christians and Jews of turning Muslims against each other and tricking them into losing their rights during its Friday sermon last week.

Singling out Christians and Jews as the “enemies of Islam”, Jakim claimed that Muslims in Malaysia will always be under siege as long as this threat is not addressed.

“How can he (Najib) allow Jakim under the PMO (Prime Minister’s office) to incite religious acrimony, animosity and hatred while another department in PMO, the Department of National Unity and Integration is entrusted with promoting inter-racial and inter-religious goodwill, understanding and harmony?” Lim asked today.

Jakim’s anti-Christian sermon goes against Najib’s reconciliation initiative – WHY IS THIS?

Posted on February 6th, 2014

The Friday sermon of the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) yesterday saying that the division among Muslims is not only caused by a weak faith but also because of the instigation of Christians and Jews is a triple regret as it goes against:

The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Cabinet’s positive response at its Cabinet meeting on 29th January 2014 to the Pakatan Rakyat’s olive branch reiterated by PR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Sunday for a Barisan Nasional-Pakatan Rakyat Leaders’ Summit on national reconciliation to check worsening national situation in the country, in particular the worst racial and religious polarization in the nation’s history as a result of incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension by a small group of reckless and irresponsible persons bent on destabilizing the country through lies and falsehoods, even to create another May 13;

Najib’s advocacy of Wasatiyyah (moderation in Arabic) as important policy in ASEAN and world conduct of nations – affecting not only Islam but also in respect of all other faiths; and

The World Interfaith Harmony Week (3 – 9 February 2014) proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 20th October 2010 as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith as “mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace”.

The question that needs to be asked is whether Jakim officials who prepare the Jakim Friday sermons are aware and support the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on inter-religious harmony and dialogue, and in particular to Najib’s promotion of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) and the “Wasatiyyah” concept as well as Najib’s support for the World Interfaith Harmony Week every February?

In April 2012, Malaysia succeeded in getting the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh to unanimously adopt Najib’s GMM concept for “the voices of moderation to drown the voices of extremism”.

This is what Najib said at the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh: “The voices of moderation should be from all religious beliefs and faiths, committed to working together to combat and hence marginalise extremists.”

Najib advocated that the “Wasatiyyah” concept should address all forms of political extremism, including religious extremism, ultranationalism and radicalism.

He also proposed that ASEAN utilise the idea of GMM as part of its current agenda to raise the ASEAN value – the practice of moderation – at the international level.

He said: “If embracing and practising moderation has worked for ASEAN, it is not impossible for it to work in the global village.

“The movement of moderates is an important approach so that ASEAN can contribute to the world in achieving global peace.”

In February last year, Najib gave full support to the World Interfaith Harmony Week, a brainchild of King Abdullah II of Jordan, not only visiting the places of worship of the nation’s five main religions centred in Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur, but also addressing a gathering of religious leaders at his official residence Seri Perdana.

As Najib said last February, the “World Interfaith Harmony Week” sought to raise awareness and understanding between religions, for universal peace and drive the world to be a more progressive and prosperous.

Najib stressed that all faiths in principle promote moderation, through conduct and words.

Last February, Najib could boast that “if there is a country which wants to showcase itself as a model of multi-racial unity, I don’t think there is a country better than Malaysia”.

Was Jakim’s message written before Najib’s reconciliation announcement?

But Malaysia has lost its innocence, to the extent that we are chided by a Pakistani website which headlined a blog: “Malaysia no longer land of peace and tolerance”.

What has happened to the “Wasatiyyah” and three important principles which Najib said last February would be practiced and adhered by the people to ensure Malaysia continues to be a peaceful, stable and harmonious country and remain a model of world harmony – i.e. the principles of moderation, fairness and mutual respect.

The scenario of inter-racial and religious relations today is completely different from that a year ago.

For instance, the three Wasatiyyah principles of moderation, fairness and mutual respect are not reflected in the Jakim’s Friday sermon yesterday.

Was yesterday’s Jakim sermon drafted well before the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday to support a national reconciliation initiative to end the politics of dissension, acrimony, hate and incitement and there was an administrative lapse or breakdown of communication to ensure that Jakim’s sermon yesterday fully endorse and not challenge or question the authority and decision of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on national reconciliation?

Is the Prime Minister and the Cabinet prepared to draw a clear line that Jakim’s sermon yesterday is not reflective of their decision on national reconciliation to end the racial and religious incitement of hatred, conflict and tension in the country?

Will Jakim’s Friday sermon next week be any different?

Christians to break the ice

The Malaysian Insider reported today that Catholic Archbishop Emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam wants priests to go to the ground and meet other religious leaders to foster peace and tolerance.

"They should find out who are the Muslim leaders, the Hindu leaders, the Buddhist leaders and so forth, in their parishes," said Pakiam, urging his Catholic priests to go to the grassroots level to seek out other religious leaders to work with them.

This is most commendable and exemplary attitude, for we cannot afford any “An Eye for an Eye” response or Malaysia will go blind.

What is the best way for Malaysia to celebrate “World Interfaith Harmony Week” this year beginning on Monday?

There can be no better way than for a joint Barisan Nasional-Pakatan Rakyat declaration fully committing both coalitions to ending the incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension and the kicking off of a genuine inter-religious understanding, harmony and tolerance Malaysia so that Malaysia can be the envy of the world as “the land of racial and religious peace and harmony” in the world.

I reiterate, for example, my belief that if the two coalitions of BN and PR are committed in their resolve that there will not be another May 13 in the country, and are prepared to do everything within their capability towards this end, there is no force in the country which can cause May 13.

Similarly, if the two coalition of BN and PR are prepared to be similarly resolved in their commitment to ensure inter-racial and inter-religious peace, harmony and understanding, it is not possible for the small group of irresponsible and reckless few to carry their nefarious and treacherous activities to cause inter-racial and inter-religious strife and conflict in the country.

World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on February 6th, 2014

First week of February every year: Spreading harmony and tolerance among followers of the three monotheistic faiths and all the world’s religions.

World Interfaith Harmony Week came about as a result of a UN resolution for a worldwide week of interfaith harmony proposed in 2010 by HM King Abdullah II and HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan.
It seeks to spread the message of harmony and tolerance among the followers of the three monotheistic faiths and all the world’s religions. It also seeks to promote the common basis of “Love of God and Love of the Neighbour, or Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour” among religions to safeguard world peace. Its message invites everyone, excludes no one, and is purely voluntary.

Jordan prepares for World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on February 6th, 2014

Jordan will next week launch activities to mark World Interfaith Harmony Week, an initiative the kingdom launched in 2010 that was adopted by the UN, the Jordan Times reported Thursday (January 30th).

Christian religious leaders and Muslim scholars started activities with a Wednesday ceremony held at a church in Amman.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour will attend a ceremony next Tuesday marking the occasion, organised by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.

The occasion is observed during the first week of February to share religious teachings about tolerance to correct misconceptions among followers of different faiths.

Awqaf Minister Hayel Dawood was quoted in a statement carried by the Jordan News Agency, Petra, stressing the importance of the occasion as a reminder to the world of the values of tolerance, harmony and peace.

South African ambassador to give talk at ‘World Interfaith Harmony Week’ conference at W&M

Posted on February 6th, 2014

WILLIAMSBURG – As part of "World Interfaith Harmony Week," the South African ambassador to the U.S., H.E. Ebrahim Rasool, will give a talk at William and Mary‘s Sadler Center on Sunday.

He will speak on the topic of "How Interfaith Cooperation Helped Defeat Apartheid." 

Sponsored by numerous campus groups, including the Center for Student Diversity, International Relations Club, Office Community Engagement, and Student Assembly, the event is free and open to the public. It will begin at 10 a.m. with remarks from College President Taylor Reveley, and will conclude with a panel discussion ending at 4 p.m.

The United Nations General Assembly in 2010 started World Interfaith Harmony Week to "spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill." This year marks the second time William and Mary has hosted a program via this initiative.

Kingdom braces for World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on January 30th, 2014

AMMAN — Jordan will next week launch activities to mark the World Interfaith Harmony Week, an initiative the Kingdom launched in 2010 that was adopted by the UN.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour will attend next Tuesday a ceremony marking the occasion, organised by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.

Christian religious leaders, joined by Muslim scholars, already started activities with a ceremony held at a church in Amman.

The occasion is observed during the first week of February to share religious teachings about tolerance to correct misconceptions among followers of different faiths.

Awqaf Minister Hayel Dawood was quoted in a statement carried by the Jordan News Agency, Petra, as stressing the importance of the occasion as a reminder to the world of the values of tolerance, harmony and peace that are shared by all the Abrahamic faiths.

In October 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted the World Interfaith Harmony Week initiative, proposed by His Majesty King Abdullah.

During Wednesday’s event, speakers said Jordan portrays a unique case worldwide as a model of coexistence between Muslims and Christians, a “reality Jordanians live and experience every day”.

Director of the Catholic Centre for Media and Research Father Rifat Bader said: “Christians and Muslims in Jordan share the freedom of worship, build mosques and churches, live in harmony and work hand-in-hand with the country’s leaders for Jordan’s prosperity.”

Bader said that Jordan was the first among Arab countries to initiate and host the interfaith dialogue events involving Muslims and Christians.

He told The Jordan Times that after Pope Paul VI’s visit to Jordan in 1964, the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue was created in the Vatican City and directed by Khalid Akasheh, a Jordanian priest originally from Karak Governorate.

“This council discusses the worldwide issues concerning religions and coexistence. It encourages people of different faiths to speak and make their case clear, then to listen and accept others’ opinions,” said Bader. The event, which attracted the participation of Christians from different faiths and Muslims, took place at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in cooperation with the Catholic Centre for Media.

Among the speakers was Professor Amer Al Hafy from the Islamic Centre for Studies at Al al Bayt University, who said that the fraternal relations between Muslims and Christians, and among all segments of society are the reason behind Jordan’s stability, adding that both the Holy Bible and Holy Koran contain many verses that discuss love and compassion between brothers in humanity regardless of religion.

Another Muslim speaker was from Karak Governorate. An Islamic culture teacher at the Latin Patriarch School, Laila Habashneh, shared experiences of coexistence that are traditions and norm in her area, where followers of both faiths have lived in harmony for centuries.

Participants shared with the audience more personal stories of coexistence.

source

Interfaith dialogue alive and well in South Carolina

Posted on January 30th, 2014

BY CAROLYN CLICK

Aziz Tajuddin witnesses the richness of interfaith harmony every time he looks around the table during extended family gatherings.

Tajuddin, a retired Laurens County chemical engineer who practices the Baha’i faith, is married to an Episcopalian. His grown children also have been raised in the Christian faith. His sister-in-law from Louisiana is Roman Catholic. A niece from Charlotte is Muslim, the faith he was born into, and her husband is Jewish.

“So there is my interfaith activity,” said Tajuddin, who is active in the nonprofit Interfaith Partners of South Carolina.

As South Carolina marks Interfaith Harmony Month, Tajuddin is among dozens of people of faith who will be engaged in outreach this month to promote education and dialogue among those who practice different faith traditions.

After four decades of interfaith conversations in South Carolina, advocates say an understanding of world faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Baha’i, among others, is richer than ever.

While the state and the South remain predominantly Christian and Protestant, the growing diversity in the population has created a climate of acceptance of different religions, said Carl Evans, retired USC religion professor and a catalyst for much of the interfaith initiatives since the 1970s and 1980s.

“What I’m finding is there is growing interest in interfaith work, a growing realization that interfaith work is especially important as our Protestant society becomes more religiously diverse,” Evans said. “Without interfaith work, we run the risk of developing misunderstandings and perhaps even fear of those who are different from us. Those who are involved in faith see it as a contribution to the common good.”

What began after the Catholic church’s Second Vatican Council as an emphasis on dialogue among Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews has evolved into more nuanced talks as the state has become home to people who practice lesser-known faiths, he said.

That emphasis on globalism will be especially felt in coming days as organizations recognize Interfaith Harmony Month and World Interfaith Harmony Week. The week was established by the United Nations in 2010 at the suggestion of King Abdullah II of Jordan and is traditionally marked during the first week in February.

Gov. Nikki Haley has declared January as S.C. Interfaith Harmony Month, apparently the only state in the country to officially recognize interfaith dialogue. She noted in the official proclamation that “affirming our commitment to interfaith harmony, religious liberty, and tolerance for diverse traditions and beliefs contributes to our continued strength and prosperity.”

Arunima Sinha, a Hindu who has been deeply involved in interfaith activities for the past two decades in South Carolina, said she sees her interfaith work as “developing spiritual potential.”

As a child in India, she remembered sailing little boats fashioned from newsprint during the rainy season with her childhood friends who encompassed any number of faith traditions, from the predominant Hindus, to Muslims, Jainists and Zoroastians.

“They were all little hands together,” she said. “We would all clap and we wanted all out boats to make it.”

Sinha settled in South Carolina with her physician husband 40 years ago and since that time she said she has been open to people asking about her Hindu faith, her traditional Indian clothing and even the bindi, the “third eye” she paints in the middle of her forehead each morning.

“At times, you feel people are judgmental,” she said. “The purpose of interfaith relations is to truly help create that atmosphere of compassion, good will and love.”

On Thursday, compassion was the theme of January’s meeting of Women of Many Faiths, a Columbia organization that seeks to build, through personal relationships, a greater understanding of faith. The gathering included Protestants, Roman Catholics, Wiccans, Buddhists, Baha’is and unaffiliated spiritual seekers and was marked by a spirit of fellowship that they hope will spread through the community.

“Aren’t we blessed by the diversity among us?” said Sister Nancy Hendershot, a member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine who is retired from Providence Hospital.

Hendershot told the group she believes compassion cannot be truly felt until people recognize the humanity inside all people. “It can’t be done without someone’s heart being involved,” she said. “It is rooted in respect for the person.”

That extends to the lowliest among us, said Ethel Crawford, co-chair of the organization who practices the Baha’i faith. “When we see a human being curled up in a doorway we don’t ask how did you get there.” Instead, she said, you find a way to ease their spirit, rather through provisions of food and clothing or through mental health assistance. “Compassion can be very healing if we go out and help others.”

Tajuddin, the Laurens County retiree, said he is so appreciative of religious tolerance in America having grown up in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, as a Shia Muslim and witnessing persecution between Muslim sects and between Muslims and Hindus.

“I grew up with a lot more non-acceptance of somebody’s else’s faith,” Tajuddin, 62, who retired as vice president of research and development for Kemet Electronics, said. “If you were a Sunni, Shias persecuted you, and if you were a Shia, Sunnis persecuted you.”

“When I came to this country I was not a practicing Musliim,” he said. “I believe in the faith. I believed in Islam. I just had trouble accepting how it was practiced. I was searching for something that had more meaning,” he said. “If you believe in a supreme creator, a God or Allah, I had a problem accepting the fact that 1.2 billion Chinese who are Buddhist would not be saved. I was looking for something that made more sense in terms of the entire population of the world. And the Baha’i faith gave me that.”

The Baha’i faithful rever all prophets from the ages, including Jesus, Mohammed, and the Buddha, and believe in continuing revelation to bring all peoples of the world together.

“More people accept me,” Tajuddin said. “Some people ask questions, some are hesitant to ask questions and some will ask and will decide that is not what they want to hear.”

Evans said Columbia, Greenville and Charleston all have thriving organizations that promote interfaith dialogue.

“There is an interfaith forum of the Upstate in Greenville that has been ongoing for 15 years or more,” Evans said, “and Charleston has a Christian-Jewish group that has been in existence for almost 40 years.”

Muslims, particularly after 9/11, saw the need to explain their faith, Evans said, resulting in more conversations.

For years, Partners in Dialogue was the main conduit for such activities in the capital city. Evans said Bishop Herman Yoos, leader of the S.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was instrumental in pushing for the establishment of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina in February 2011.

“So there is activity going on around the state.”

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The Parliament and Friends Plan for World Interfaith Harmony Week (EVENTS)

Posted on January 30th, 2014

The Parliament of the World’s Religions, an official member NGO of the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN-DPI), will observe World Interfaith Harmony Week, the official United Nations week held annually over February 1 – 7.

On the local front, Parliament staff will participate the Niagara Foundation’s Chicago Interfaith Gathering over the week of February 3 – 6 in Chicago, IL, with sponsorship and attendance.
Nationally, the Faiths Against Hate campaign of the Parliament of the World’s Religions salutes our partner, the Compassionate Atlanta movement at the inaugural Compassionate Atlanta (details below) event at the Carter Center organized in a collaboration across city sectors with leadership from Rev. Bob Thompson, a former Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

In Georgia, Join Metro Atlanta neighbors at the Carter Center (chapel) on Sunday, February 2, 2014 from 2-5 pm for an important and engaging conversation about how we can work together to make all of Atlanta a more compassionate community. Solutions to racism, violence, hunger and other big problems begin with compassionate awareness in everyday situations — that grows into action.

Using a World Café format, (small group conversations) we will talk together about what compassion means to each of us, and what we can do to help our families, neighborhoods, schools, businesses and our city foster a compassionate heart. This event is free but our space is limited. An RSVP is required for each person attending. Go to Eventbrite (link here) to register and get your ticket. Please print and bring your ticket with you.

For more information, visit our website at www.compassionateatl.com. This global movement is rooted in the Charter for Compassion. Read it at www.charterforcompassion.org. Sponsored by the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta (FAMA), Interfaith Community Initiatives (ICI), Neshama Interfaith Center, and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR).

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Zambo folks enjoined to support Interfaith Week

Posted on January 30th, 2014

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Jan. 17 (PIA) – Mayor Beng Climaco has issued an executive order enjoining Zamboangueños to actively support the activities for the World Interfaith Harmony Week on Feb. 1-7 pursuant to Republic Act 10525 declaring the period as such.
In issuing Executive Order N0.BC-32-2014 on Jan. 7, Mayor Climaco said the United Nations General Assembly in its 34th plenary meeting declared the first week of February of every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week among all religions, faiths and beliefs throughout the world.
Hence, she said all states are encouraged to support on a voluntary basis the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week, based on love of God and love of one’s neighbor or on love of the good and love of one’s neighbor, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions.
“The UN General Assembly recognizes the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among the peoples of the world,” the lady mayor said, adding that the UN also recalls with appreciation various global, regional and sub-regional initiatives on mutual understanding and interfaith harmony, including the Tripartite Forum on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, and the initiative “A Common Word.”
The UN further recognizes that the moral imperatives of all religions, convictions and beliefs call for peace, tolerance, interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding, which constitute the important dimensions of a culture of peace.
Climaco ordered copies of her EO be furnished the UN Philippines in Manila, the Silsilah Dialogue Movement and the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines, including all concerned schools, governmental agencies, private institutions, NGOs, parishes, church-based organizations, civil society groups, urban poor communities and other people’s organizations for their appropriate action.-(Vic Larato, City Hall Information Office / FPG/JPA-PIA9)
- See more at: http://news.pia.gov.ph/index.php?article=1401389920437#sthash.hFYQDdcI.dpuf

We can harmonise state laws with 10-point solution, says Joseph Kurup

Posted on January 30th, 2014

BY JENNIFER GOMEZ
JANUARY 27, 2014
LATEST UPDATE: JANUARY 27, 2014 05:02 PM

Tan Sri Joseph Kurup (pic), the minister in charge of interfaith matters, said he was open to suggestions that Putrajaya engage in discussions to “harmonise” the 10-point solution with state enactments which forbid non-Muslims from using the word Allah.

He said although this was his personal opinion, he was nonetheless open to suggestions that Putrajaya and state governments discuss the possibility of amending state enactments for consistency with the cabinet’s 10-point solution.

Referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s statement on Friday that the 10-point solution was subject to state laws, Kurup said: “That is the reality, what the PM said”.

“But because some quarters are not happy, we can discuss to find a solution to ‘harmonise’ the two,” he added.

Kurup said this at the pre-launch of the World Interfaith Harmony Week organised by the National Integration and Unity Department and the United Nations.

He also condemned the provocative acts where banners with the word “Allah” were put up in front of five churches over the weekend and Molotov cocktails were thrown into the compound of one church early this morning.

“I believe these acts are done by very irresponsible persons who only wish to see us fight. Let the police take action,” he said.

Kurup added that while Putrajaya could not interfere with the raid and seizure of more than 300 Bibles in Malay and Iban from The Bible Society of Malaysia by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), he was willing to help the society get back the Bibles.

“We will use our good office to talk to them in a diplomatic way,” he said.

In the 1980s, several states and their Muslim fatwa committees passed laws forbidding the use of “Allah” and several Arabic terms by non-Muslims.

This includes the 1988 Selangor enactment and the 1986 decree by the National Fatwa Council.

However, these laws were not widely enforced until 2008 when the Home Ministry banned the Catholic weekly, Herald, from using the term in the Bahasa Malaysia section of the publication.

The term is used by Christians who worship in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban, such as those in Sabah and Sarawak.

Two-thirds of Malaysia’s 2.9 million Christians are from East Malaysia.

The word Allah has been in use for centuries in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia Bibles.

The Herald won a High Court decision in January 2009 that overturned the Home Ministry ban.

However, the Court of Appeal then overturned that decision in 2013, saying that the word was not integral to Christianity. The church is appealing the decision.

Before the Sarawak state elections in 2011, the Najib administration led by Datuk Seri Idris Jala crafted a 10-point solution, which among others, allowed for the import and use of Bibles in all languages.

However, Jais’s raid on BSM has questioned the validity of the 10-point solution on states which have laws that expressively forbid the use of the word Allah.

Last Friday, Najib said the 10-point solution allowing for the use of “Allah” in Bibles is valid for Sabah and Sarawak, and any other state that does not forbid its use among non-Muslims.

Given that part of the World Interfaith Harmony Week will involve programmes in Sabah including a Harmony Forum on February 7, Kurup was asked if the Allah issue would be discussed there.

He said that since the case was in court, all they could do was to give explanations to create a conducive environment for discussions.

Kurup, who was repeatedly asked whether the goodwill programmes his department was working on would include working with the opposition, said: “If it is for the good of the country why not, we can sit down and work together”. – January 27, 2014.

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Interfaith programmes to ease tensions

Posted on January 30th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 27, 2014): The government will organise inter-faith programmes to promote harmony and mutual understanding in the wake of the heightening of religious tensions that culminated in Molotov cocktails being hurled at a Catholic church in Penang early this morning.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said peaceful dialogue and discussions should be held to resolve religious issues instead of resorting to violence and agitation.

“These incidents are unacceptable. The government will never condone such actions,” he said when commenting on the incident where provocative banners bearing the words “Jesus is the son of Allah” were strung outside two churches by unknown parties on Sunday.

“It should not have happened, we must resolve (religious) issues peacefully and not through violence; the government will never condone such acts,” Kurup told reporters after lunching the World Interfaith Harmony Week in Kuala Lumpur today.

He said the tense religious climate was due to the actions of provocateurs and those who do not think before they act. He did not specify who he was referring to.

Kurup said the important thing to do now is to let temperatures cool down to ease inter-religious tensions and that “the less we talk about it, the better”.

On the Cabinet’s 10-point solution, he said it does not supersede state laws, but that the federal government will engage in “diplomacy” to harmonise federal and state laws.

Kurup said he will also hold discussions with the Selangor government to get the 300 Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban that were seized by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM).

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South African Ambassador to Speak at W&M for World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on January 30th, 2014

Community members can catch a speech from South African Ambassador to the United States H.E. Ebrahim Rasool during World Interfaith Harmony Week.

A W&M news release announced Monday Rasool will soon speak as a part of a one-day conference on “How Interfaith Cooperation Helped Defeat Apartheid.” Before the speech, College President Taylor Reveley will give opening remarks.

Rasool’s talk will start at 10:15 a.m. Sunday in the Sadler Center and the conference will end at 4 p.m. following a panel discussion. Reveley will give his remarks at 10 a.m.

Sarhang Hamasaeed of the U.S. Institute for Peace, Cynthia Mahmoud of the University of Notre Dame and Dena Trugman of Interfaith Youth Core are also expected to speak at the conference. The event is sponsored by the Center for Student Diversity, International Relations Club, International Relations Program, Muslims Students Association, Office Community Engagement, Reyes Center for International Studies, Student Assembly and Universalist Unitarian Club.

World Interfaith Harmony Week, founded by the United Nations General Assembly, is an event that has taken place during the first week of February each year since its founding day in 2010. The week is dedicated to calling on all countries to spread interfaith harmony and goodwill.

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GOVT MUST ALSO PUNISH EXTREME GROUPS LIKE ISMA, PERKASA, JATI: Interfaith programmes to ease tensions – Kurup

Posted on January 30th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 27, 2014): The government will organise inter-faith programmes to promote harmony and mutual understanding in the wake of the heightening of religious tensions that culminated in Molotov cocktails being hurled at a Catholic church in Penang early this morning.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said peaceful dialogue and discussions should be held to resolve religious issues instead of resorting to violence and agitation.
“These incidents are unacceptable. The government will never condone such actions,” he said when commenting on the incident where provocative banners bearing the words “Jesus is the son of Allah” were strung outside two churches by unknown parties on Sunday.
“It should not have happened, we must resolve (religious) issues peacefully and not through violence; the government will never condone such acts,” Kurup told reporters after lunching the World Interfaith Harmony Week in Kuala Lumpur today.
He said the tense religious climate was due to the actions of provocateurs and those who do not think before they act. He did not specify who he was referring to.
Kurup said the important thing to do now is to let temperatures cool down to ease inter-religious tensions and that “the less we talk about it, the better”.
On the Cabinet’s 10-point solution, he said it does not supersede state laws, but that the federal government will engage in “diplomacy” to harmonise federal and state laws.
Kurup said he will also hold discussions with the Selangor government to get the 300 Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban that were seized by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM). – The Sundaily

Full article: http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=219941:govt-must-also-punish-extreme-groups-like-isma-perkasa-jati-interfaith-programmes-to-ease-tensions-kurup&Itemid=2#ixzz2rrgqZY8e
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Strengthen dialogue to promote religious harmony

Posted on January 30th, 2014

Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily

While the World Interfaith Harmony Week was being launched in the country, two provocative religious incidents took place in Penang, with an attempt to create hatred. Provocative banners were hung outside three Catholic Church while two Molotov cocktails were thrown into another Catholic church. Fortunately, no serious damage was caused.

We deeply regret over these incidents, while severely reprimanding those who deliberately created troubles at this sensitive time. It could cause racial and religious tensions and undermine the harmonious atmosphere that has long been nurtured. Such acts must be stopped immediately or it could lead to serious consequences.

Attacks on churches and Hindu temples can be traced back to 2010 when the racial and religious atmosphere in the country was once tense. Fortunately, the people at that time showed restraint and calmness, allowing the sentiment to cool down. Unexpectedly, some extremists have reapplied the old tricks today, particularly when the “Allah” controversy has not yet been satisfactorily solved, it might further blur the focus of the controversy.

Major religious organisations and the people must patiently wait for the ruling of the Federal Court over the “Allah” controversy, accept and comply with the court’s decision. Any provocative acts will only complicate the controversy.

At this very moment, we must remain calm and make no radical response. We should leave it to the police to investigate, arrest and charge the perpetrators in court. In particular, politicians and some organisation leaders should try soothing the people through dialogues and avoid making unnecessary remarks to gain political capital and personal interests.

As Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said, the Federal Government and the state government should discuss amending state laws to include Putrajaya’s 10-point solution to the “Allah” controversy. The raid on the Bible Society of Malaysian and seizure of its bibles by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) has triggered a question of whether the state laws or the 10-point solution should be prioritised. As the Federal Government and state government have their respective stands, it confuses the people.

Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country housing peace-loving people. Unfortunately, the country’s political atmosphere seems to have turned unstable after the 2013 general election. Peaceful demonstrations and petitions are normal in a democratic society and only some are trying to take the opportunity to create social unrest. The BN and Pakatan Rakyat should take such a phenomenon seriously and resort to the democratic means of negotiation to solve the issue together.

It will be very much welcomed if the Department of National Unity and Integration (JPNIN) can organise more inter-religious dialogues to promote religious harmony and understanding. All walks of life should fully use the JPNIN to strengthen relations and sincerely communicate to enhance mutual trust and awareness, as well as to maintain tolerance. There is no better way or mechanism to effectively resolve disputes and differences than dialogue.

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World Interfaith Harmony Week opens next week under patronage of prime minister

Posted on January 30th, 2014

Amman, Jan. 29 (Petra) – Under the patronage of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs will hold a ceremony next Tuesday to launch the World Interfaith Harmony Week.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week was proclaimed by the General Assembly through a resolution adopted on 20 October 2010. In the resolution, the General Assembly pointed out that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace, and the World Interfaith Harmony Week was established as a way to promote harmony among all people regardless of their faith.

Recognizing the imperative need for a dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among the people, the General Assembly called on all the States for support to the week to spread the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill across the world’s mosques, churches, temples and other places of worship on a voluntary basis and according to their own religious traditions or convictions.

Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Hayel Abdul Hafeez Dawood told Petra that the meeting is an important occasion to remind people all over the world of the good teachings of all religions that bring together the followers of all monotheistic beliefs.

In September 2010, His Majesty King Abdullah proposed the launch of the World Interfaith Harmony Week at the UN General Assembly, which adopted the initiative.

The event, which will bring together Islamic and Christian religious figures, intellectuals and researchers from Jordan and the other Arab, Islamic and friendly countries, will tackle issues and concepts of harmony, tolerance and coexistence among followers of all religions.

//Petra//S Kh 29/1/2014 – 02:53:25 PM

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Interfaith Forum to Discuss Pope’s Visit to Israel

Posted on January 30th, 2014

Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders will meet to discuss the visit of Pope Francis to Israel. The forum will coincide with United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, an initiative originally proposed in 2010 by King Hussein of Jordan.

The forum will take place on February 2nd at the historic YMCA building in Jerusalem and feature Rabbi David Rosen, the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and currently the International Director of Interrelations Affairs of American Jewish Committee, Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein, founder and director of The Elijah Interfaith Institute, Peta Pellach of The Elijah Interfaith Institute, Kadi Iyad Zahalka and Muslim judge living in Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Bishop William Shomali and others.

Pope Francis is expected to visit Israel in May.

Source

FoGuang Shan leads interfaith prayer for Chinese New Year 2014

Posted on January 30th, 2014

By Florence F. Hibionada

Thursday, January 30, 2014

FOGUANG Shan Philippines, the country’s largest Buddhist and charity organization leads this year’s Chinese New Year celebration.

A kick-off to the 2014 World Interfaith Harmony Week, at the center of the event is the FoGuang Shan Prayer and Symposium. As such, a nationwide call and invite stands with focus on the message how through practicing our faith comes “love and peace.”

The celebration starts today with a full night of festivities starting off with the highly-anticipated lion and dragon dances followed by song and dances with guests.

FoGuang Shan also set a Thanksgiving Prayer with greetings from the “God of Wealth” and the New Year’s blessings.

The celebration will also see lantern light offering, photo and candy booths, games for the family with a special play area set for the children. A Sutra Transcription will also be present alongside an extensive book display and art exhibit of the children’s paintings.

Come Saturday is yet another highlight in the prayer and symposium that will see a convocation of various interfaith groups to welcome the new year.

In a news statement, FoGuang Shan Philippines said a roundtable discussion is further set with a workshop on the three acts of goodness – do good deeds, say good words and think good thoughts.

Objectives of the celebration are to promote harmony among faith-based organizations, to greet the new year with prosperity and blessings and to advocate the 3 stated acts of goodness.

Organizer is the UNIHarmony Partners of Manila with FoGuang Shan Philippines working with the Buddha’s Light International Association Philippines.

The celebration will be at the FoGuang Shan Mabuhay Temple in Pablo Ocampo Street, Malate, Manila. Expected here are leaders and the faithful from various faith-based organizations throughout the country.

For FoGuang Shan, promotion of harmony is important – regardless of faith and culture.

Malaysia Won Third Prize In The World Interfaith Harmony Week In Jordan

Posted on May 5th, 2013

    YBhg Dato Azman Amin bin Hassan, The Director General, Department of National Unity and Integration, Prime Minister’s Department accompanying officials. Reverend Thomas and Mr Wan Borhan was in Jordan to receive the third prize award on behalf of Malaysia at the World Interfaith Harmony Prize Ceremony held at the Baptism site, Dead Sea.  Malaysian Ambassador Dato’ Abdul Malek bin Abdul Aziz also attended the ceremony organized by Al al Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought.

Their Royal Highnesses Prince Ghazi and Princess Areej Ghazi attended the ceremony with the Prince who deputized for Jordan King Abdullah II distributing awards to the winners. Malaysia won the award for a national initiative based on goodwill which included 10,000 individuals and officials from different religious backgrounds.  Nigeria and the Philippines won first and second prize respectively.

 

 SOURCE

 

A common prayer for a common peace

Posted on May 4th, 2013

Surveil
Amina Rasul

LAST WEEK, I was in Amman, Jordan to receive an award on behalf of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) for the interfaith dialogues we conducted during the 2013 World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW). We won the silver! Accompanying me were our partners, former Sen. Santanina Rasul for the Magbassa Kita Foundation Inc (MKFI) and Ustadza Omuhani Mabandes for the Noorus Salam.

Prince Ghazi currently chairs the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, which organized the contest for the best interfaith event during the 2013 WIHW. Established in 1980 by His Majesty the late King Hussein Bin Talal, the institute serves “Jordan, Arabs, Muslims and humanity at large” by formulating solutions for “the issues, problems and challenges of the time.”The World Interfaith Harmony Week is an annual celebration proposed by H. M. King Abdullah II of Jordan at the United Nations General Assembly and adopted by the United Nations in 2010. The WIHW takes place during the first week of February. The proposal was based on the pioneering work of the Common Word Initiative, which calls for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments — Love of God and Love of Neighbor — without having to compromise their basic religious tenets. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, one of the leading intellectuals and religious scholars of the Islamic World, is the moving force behind A Common Word (ACW).

The institute decided to organize the prize this year to recognize the best three events held during the World Interfaith Harmony Week. About 363 events were held this year in 53 countries, but only 60 were shortlisted for the award, according to the organizers. Prince Ghazi gave the awards on behalf of King Abdullah II.

The awarding ceremony took place on April 25 at the site of the baptism of Jesus Christ by the River Jordan in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Acknowledging the appropriateness of the site for the awarding, His Beatitude, Patriarch Theophilus III, said, “Our physical presence here by the baptismal site, where the sacred history was revealed and handed down to us through Holy Scriptures and where Jesus Christ was baptized, bears witness to our common humanity and its destiny to ‘theosis’; that is our unity with God. Furthermore, The baptism site together with Bethlehem and Jerusalem constitutes its own part of a nation of interfaith harmony; where the Abrahamic faiths were destined to live in peace and understanding.”

The Board of Judges, chaired by H. R .H. Princess Areej Ghazi, included H. B. Patriarch Theophilus III (patriarch of the Holy City, Palestine and Jordan), H. E. Bishop Munib Yunan (bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and president of the World Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches), Father Nabil Haddad (founder and executive director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center), Dr. Minwer Al-Mheid (director of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought), Nabil Al-Sahib (first deputy of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought) and Aftab Ahmed (director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center).

Speaking at the awarding ceremony, HB Patriarch Theophilus stressed the importance of WIHW and said, “Though we are destined to live in harmony, interfaith peace is indeed a challenge worldwide. It is precisely for this reason that all efforts to bring our faiths closer together must be acknowledged.” It was truly a rare honor to meet the Patriarch, who is the Eastern Church counterpart of the Pope.

Director Minwer Mheid noted that “religious leaders and civil societies have bigger roles to play than governments in promoting peace, as people tend to suspect the government’s intentions.”

He also stressed that while Jordan is not challenged by religious divisions, “We can see extremism developing in all religions.… We have to be a part of this dialogue. There is an urgent need for all of us to help people in other nations by encouraging interfaith harmony.”

Paying tribute to the role that Jordan has played in the promotion of peace and harmony in the Middle East, Bishop Younan said, “Jordan has become the hub of Christian-Muslim dialogue both regionally and globally. This dialogue is not merely an academic exercise, but an exercise being lived out from day to day where God’s faithful people live under one constitution, experiencing religious freedom with equal citizenship that calls for equal rights and responsibility to every Jordanian.”

Princess Areej noting the uniqueness of the WIHW as a UN sponsored event, pointed out “the ingenious formula of its title and content never before used in the world, let alone the UN: Love of God and Love of the Neighbor OR Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbor.” This formula — love of God or love of the good — was the proposal of Prince Ghazi (her husband). She said, “This allows believers to remember God, and leaves a space for non-monotheists who believe in the good. And since the Good (Al-Barr) is one of God’s Names in the Qur’an and in the Bible, Jesus Christ says only God is the good, so Muslims and Christians can be satisfied that they have not compromised their religions in any way, by celebrating the World Interfaith Harmony Week under this formula.”

During her speech, Princess Areej said while they would have liked to give everyone prizes, the judges favored two categories of groups: “those working courageously in conflicted zones despite scant resources (and this I believe explains our first, second place winners and our two runners-up), and those who held the most excellent and useful events with their resources, (and this I believe explains our third place winner).

The first prize and a gold medal was awarded to the Interfaith Mediation Center, Kaduna for their event “Imam and Pastor from Vengeance to Forgiveness” in Nigeria. Nigeria has been wracked by armed conflicts between Christian and Muslim communities. The center organized a peaceful rally in Kaduna, with hundreds of Christian and Muslim participants.

The third prize and a bronze medal went to the Malaysian Department of National Unity and Integration, a government body, for organizing their “World Interfaith Harmony Week Malaysia 2013,” a national peace and harmony initiative, which reached 10,000 individuals.

The second prize and a silver medal went to PCID for our simultaneous dialogues entitled, “A Common Word Towards A Common Peace.”

In line with our continuing effort to engage religious groups and other sectors in peace building and harmony among Filipinos of all faiths, the PCID, in partnership with the MKFI and the Noorus Salam,conducted interfaith dialogues last Feb. 4 in four cities, simultaneously.

This year, we decided to have the interfaith events organized by the women of PCID, MKFI and Noorus Salam,believing that women need to be more engaged in peacemaking and interfaith harmony. The dialogues were designed to be intimate gatherings of 20 to 25 faith leaders, to share thoughts on how harmony among peoples of all faiths is essential for genuine and lasting peace to take root in our communities. The dialogues elicited from the participants their ideas and understanding on our theme of “A Common Word for A Common Peace.” We held the dialogues in our PCID office at the NCPAG Annex Building Conference Room, University of the Philippines, Quezon City; the Women Support Center, RT Lim Boulevard, Zamboanga City; the National Commission on Muslim Filipino (NCMF) Office in Cebu City; and the Mahad Al-Nur Al-Islamiya, Ceanuri Village, Camague, Iligan City.

This year marks the 5th year of PCID’s efforts to bring the message of A Common Word to the grassroots. For the past five years, PCID had been engaging the Muslim religious teachers in intra-faith workshops about the importance of harmony among Muslims and Christians and the need for interfaith dialogue. Many of the participants, while supportive of the ideals of the historic document, stressed the need to popularize “A Common Word” in the context of the social, political and cultural issues that animate Muslim communities in the Philippines.

PCID feels that much more effort is needed to let interfaith harmony take root. In our experience, beautiful statements are released at the international and national levels but these have not become rooted in our divided communities where discrimination remains high. We need to intensify interfaith discussions, which highlight the themes of Love of God and Love of Neighbor, as the foundation for serious dialogue and peaceful engagement between Islam, Christianity and other religious sectors. Since ACW also highlights Love of the Good, we can reach out to peoples who may not belong to faith groups but who believe in doing Good. We need to bring the message home to our families, our neighborhoods, and our divided communities.

What better way to do so than thru the peace-loving women? Evidently, the Board of Judges believed as we did. This award is a tribute to all sisters, we who support half of the sky!!!

SOURCE

Act Justly, Love Tenderly, Walk Humbly: Working for World Interfaith Harmony

Posted on May 1st, 2013

April 23, 2013

From December 11-15, 2012, the Jesuit Service Cambodia hosted an interfaith workshop entitled “Act Justly, Love Tenderly, Walk Humbly.” This workshop provided an opportunity for people from various faith traditions to share their personal stories and experiences, learn about insights from different faith traditions, and decide on actions to take regarding key social and environmental issues facing Cambodia and the wider world.

The workshop took place at the Jesuit Service Metta Karuna Center in Siem Reap and drew from a range of experiences and faith traditions, with an ultimate aim to open avenues for dialogue, discussion, and collaborative action towards a just and peaceful Cambodia.

I was unable to attend the workshop (I was back in England for the holidays), but upon my return I managed to speak with Sister Denise, Jesuit Refugee Service Executive Director and organizer of the event, about the workshop. “It was a big success,” said Sr. Denise, “We began the program with a ritual feet washing of the participants and listened to the stories of those who had been injured by war, generally displaced, or affected by environmental destruction.” She explained that theological reflection was integrated into the responses to these personal stories. Through small learning circles, four key speakers were able to provide greater detail to the issues raised by the experiences shared. Sr. Denise explained that over the weekend, participants considered ways to encourage the growth of justice and peace in Cambodia. On the second day, Bob Maat, a former Jesuit who converted to Buddhism and has extensive knowledge of the Sufi tradition, was able to give a reflective talk about his experiences within these three distinct faith traditions. This was then followed by a sharing of insights from small, interfaith learning circles.

Sister Denise also explained that there was a Wall of Reflection introduced to encourage active reflection over the course of the three-day workshop. She commented that it was highly effective in inspiring participants to share reflections and information that they had learnt from the day. The workshop concluded with a reflection on what blockages had moved or insights had been raised for each participant over the past three days. It also sought to create responses on personal, local, and regional levels to coordinate actions together against issues relating to displacement, disability, the environment, and climate change.

One of the first responses from this workshop has been the interfaith tree planting which took place during “World Interfaith Harmony Week” which was suggested at the UN General Assembly in September 2010. In his blog posted on January 15, 2013, Max Ediger from the Mennonite Central Committee, outlined the program of the interfaith tree planting event which would take place at Choeung Ek Killing Fields, just on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, on the January 27. The program would begin at 3 pm with a one minute silence to pay respect to the souls of the Khmer Rouge victims, followed by speeches from a Buddhist monk, a Muslim Imam, and a Christian pastor. The event would conclude with the planting of fifty trees within Cheoung Ek.

Gabby Lamug-Nañawa from the Jesuit Service Cambodia commented in her blog post on March 4 why the common activity for celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week in Cambodia has been tree planting: “Planting trees is a positive act for others and for creation that easily brings people together.” Another tree planting activity during this week was an initiative from the Cambodian Interfaith Cooperation Forum which invited children from some of Phnom Penh’s poorest communities to plant trees to promote interfaith harmony, justice, and peace.

Environmental projects are non-political and much easier for interfaith cooperation. The other issues which were raised in the Jesuit Refugee Service Interfaith Workshop–such as eviction, displacement, and statelessness–are exponentially more difficult to formulate a collaborative and peaceful action plan, both in the eyes of the Cambodian government and the different faith traditions. The issues of eviction, displacement, and statelessness create a solidarity and identity in suffering and persecution which is often entangled deeply with religious identity. Those identities are already very separated, as one can observe especially on village levels. In one village that former WFDD fellow Jenny Cimaglia and I visited during our field trip to Ratanakiri province, the whole community was living in an area no bigger than a football pitch, yet the Muslim community did not speak to the Christian or indigenous Jarai communities, and the Christian or Jarai communities would not speak to each other or with the Muslim community. This stark separation is an extreme, but it is still a representative example of something extremely prevalent in rural Cambodia. A friend of mine also recently explained that it is very difficult to be a Cambodian Christian outside of Phnom Penh or Siem Reap because villagers feel threatened and then react with persecution and ostracism which in turn links back to the fundamental concept of identity and separation.

This workshop hosted by the Jesuit Service sought to raise awareness of important issues in which all religious communities need to unite behind in order to ensure a just and peaceful country. I look forward to learning more from them about other activities and collaborations which may follow.

Bishop Munib Younan Speaks At UN World Interfaith Harmony Week Award Ceremony

Posted on May 1st, 2013

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judges and winners

The judges and winners of the First Annual UN Interfaith World Harmony Week (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

On April 25, 2013, ambassadors, diplomats, and religious leaders from around the world convened at the Baptismal Site of Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan for the First Annual World Interfaith Harmony Week competition. The competition, under the patronage of King Abdullah II of Jordan, is part of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week that started in 2011. Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, who was deputized for the event, presented the prizes to the winners. All the judges were in attendance, including the Chairwoman of the Interfaith Harmony Week ceremony, Her Royal Highness Princess Areej Ghazi of Jordan; Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land; and Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Bishop Munib Younan thanked the winners and all those who submitted applications for the competition for their steadfastness in the face of extremism and hate: “I always say that it is an art to live with others in peace and harmony, to equally share the country. All of you who achieve this are artists. You are the artists of harmony.”

First prize was accepted by Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye the Interfaith Mediation Centre, Kaduna of Nigeria for their event “Imam & Pastor from Vengeance to Forgiveness,” a documentary on their journey from hate to reconciliation. Second prize was accepted by Dr. Santanina Tillah Rasul, Omuhani Mabandes, and Salma Rasul, Esq. for their interfaith dialogue event, “A Common Word Towards A Common Peace” put together by the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy. Third prize was awarded to the Department of National Unity and Integration in Malaysia for their ‘World Interfaith Harmony Week Malaysia 2013’ and was accepted by Dato’ Azman Amin bin Hassan, Rev. Dr. Thomas Philips, and Mr. Wan Burhan bin Wan Ismail.

To see photos of the event, visit the ELCJHL’s photo gallery.

To listen to Bishop Munib Younan’s speech, click here.

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Address at the Event Announcing The Winners of The World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize at The Baptismal Site.

Posted on April 28th, 2013

25-4-2013

Your Royal Highnesses,

Eminences and Excellencies,

Reverend Fathers, Distinguished guests,

We are pleased to be here with Our fellow judges for the first ever award ceremony of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which is being held under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II. As a religious leader We bring with Us blessed greetings from Jerusalem, the Holy City of peace and reconciliation, for it is there that Heaven met with Earth; and it is there that our Abrahamic faiths, through constant prayer, have achieved harmony. We have gathered here today to celebrate diversity and harmony through different faiths. Here, Ourselves and Our fellow judges wish to convey our gratitude for the efforts of His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad in taking this initiative, and to His Majesty King Abdullah II for introducing the world to a dialogue of harmony between faiths, which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations, just 3 years ago.

Speaking at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, His Majesty outlined the main goals of the “World Interfaith Harmony Week”. The initiative was to recognize the moral imperative of promoting and understanding the values of peace inherent in all religions. All faiths can be joined by their love of God and love of neighbor. By building on such values common to all religions, “World interfaith Harmony Week” was to become a platform that connected faiths, addressing the urgent need to enhance mutual understanding, cooperation and harmony.

The official U.N. Resolution set out the criteria for “World Interfaith Harmony Week”. Among these were:

 1. To reaffirm that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace.

2. The first week of February of every year will be reserved for “World Interfaith Harmony Week” between all religions, faiths and beliefs.

 3. The initiative will encourage all states to support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week, based on love of God and love of one’s neighbor.

The candidates who have been selected today for their distinction have gathered, from all over the world and from all faiths, in our blessed Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the cross roads of great civilizations. The candidates’ achievements have demonstrated the dynamic and potent power of interfaith relations and how, through dialogue we attain to Harmony which is the embodiment of cooperation, mutual understanding and respect that are common attributes inherent to the very essence of religion.

Our physical presence here by the Baptismal Site, where the sacred history was revealed and handed down to us through Holy Scriptures and where Jesus Christ was baptized, bears witness to our common humanity and its destiny to “theosis”; that is our unity with God. Furthermore, The Baptism Site together with Bethlehem and Jerusalem constitutes its own part of a nation of interfaith harmony; where the Abrahamic faiths were destined to live in peace and understanding.

Though we are destined to live in harmony, interfaith peace is indeed a challenge worldwide. It is precisely for this reason that all efforts to bring our faiths closer together must be acknowledged. This year’s celebrations of “World Interfaith Harmony Week” saw more than 300 events held the world over, celebrating not only Islamo-Christian relations but the richness of dialogue with other faiths, from Judaism and Buddhism to Sikhism.

It is with great honour that we invite you to join us in celebrating the announcement of this year’s recipients of the “World Interfaith Harmony” prize. Thank you.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III,

Patriarch of Jerusalem

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‘Religious leaders should lead efforts in interfaith dialogue’

Posted on April 26th, 2013

by Areej Abuqudairi | Apr 25, 2013 | 23:43

Their Royal Highnesses Prince Ghazi and Princess Areej Ghazi with the winners of the World Interfaith Harmony Week awards during a ceremony at the Baptism Site on Thursday (Petra photo)

BAPTISM SITE — Religious leaders have a great responsibility in creating interfaith harmony and promoting peace worldwide, experts and scholars said on Thursday.

“This responsibility has become urgent and essential given the sectarian violence we are seeing worldwide,” noted Minwer Mheid, the director of Al al Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought.

“Religious leaders and civil societies have bigger roles to play than governments in promoting peace, as people tend to suspect the government’s intentions,” he told The Jordan Times during the World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize Ceremony.

“We can see extremism developing in all religions. Although Jordan is not challenged by any religious divisions, we have to be a part of this dialogue. There is an urgent need for all of us to help people in other nations by encouraging interfaith harmony,” Mheid added.

The institute organised the prize this year for the first time to recognise the best three events held during the World Interfaith Harmony Week, which takes place during the first week of February every year, Mheid said.

In October 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted the World Interfaith Harmony Week initiative, proposed by His Majesty King Abdullah.

First prize was awarded to the Interfaith Meditation Centre from Nigeria for organising a peaceful rally in Kaduna, with hundreds of Christian and Muslim participants.

“Nigeria is in the news, because it is divided by extremism,” Pastor James Wuy from the Interfaith Meditation Centre told the Jordan Times on the sidelines of the event.

“In order to break this, we realised that we need to bring religious leaders together, so we brought both Muslim and Christian religious leaders… as we marched, hundreds of people joined in,” he added.

“We also engaged the public through television. We spoke to them about this international week and the significance of interfaith harmony,” Wuy noted.

Second prize was awarded to the Philippine Centre for Islam and Democracy and Noor Salam Organisation for holding four major events in the Philippines aimed at engaging women in promoting interfaith harmony.

“We thought it would be more useful to include women in helping organise events, because women are known for being very good at peacemaking worldwide,” Amina Rasul, from the Philippine Centre for Islam and Democracy, told The Jordan Times.

“We organised simultaneous events. They were based on intimate discussions about the importance of harmony of faith. We brought Christian, Muslim and Buddhist religious leaders to join the discussion,” she added.

Third prize was awarded to the Department of National Unity and Integration in Malaysia for a national initiative based on “goodwill”, which included 10,000 individuals and officials from different religious backgrounds.

“In Malaysia, we have simmering tensions due to religious conflicts. Therefore, this was a unique opportunity for us, Muslims and non-Muslims, to sit together, plan activities for the country, and deliver our message to the nation,” Reverend Thomas Philips said.

About 363 events were held this year in 53 countries to mark the week, but only 60 were shortlisted for the award, according to the organisers.

The selection criteria was based on the ability to organise an event with “limited resources” and/or in conflict-affected countries, Aftab Ahmed, one of the judges for the prize, told The Jordan Times.

“Just to organise a peaceful rally in Nigeria with Muslims and Christians given the nature of the violence there… We think this is a great example of an effective event in that context,” he noted.

Their Royal Highnesses Prince Ghazi and Princess Areej Ghazi attended the ceremony, with the prince, who deputised for the King, distributing awards to the winners.

 

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