World Interfaith Harmony Week celebrations conclude

Posted on February 14th, 2016

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The celebrations of World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) 2016 concluded at the Modern Islamic Studies Centre (MISC), Islamabad, with concerted efforts to create understanding between different faiths and religions in different parts of the country.

A ‘Peace Prayer Day’ gathering was organised at the head office of Modern Islamic Studies Centre, Islamabad, which was attended by a large number of people from different faiths and religions. UC 21 (Sohan) Chairman Malik Amir Hussain was the chief guest on the occasion.

World Interfaith Harmony Week celebrations conclude

Addressing the audience, MISC President Dr Allama AGR Chishti, said that the interfaith harmony is not a new phenomenon, as it was the path followed by Sufi saints of Indo-Pak subcontinent, as through this system they attracted attention of non-Muslims therefore it is responsibility of every Muslim to join this cause for betterment of Muslim Ummah,” he added.

Dr Chishti was of the view that his visits to Bahawalnagar and Cholistan (February 1-2), Lahore (February 3), and particularly to Swat and its adjoining area, Besham (February 6), recently, was of great importance, as both later areas had been plagued by terrorism in past, but now have returned to normalcy after military operations there. “We visited a Tableeghi Centre and met Amir, Tableeghi Jamaat, Ahmad Khan. The elders of the Tableeghi Jamaat as well as tribal elders appreciated MISC’s gesture for visiting the centre and apprising them of interfaith harmony. They were of the view that the philosophy of interfaith harmony has become the need of the hour and could help our society recover from the losses inflicted by religious intolerance and terrorism in past. They said Common Word Initiative, Amman Message and celebrations of WIHW can help bring long lasting peace in tribal areas,” Dr Chishti added.

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’, an initiative of King Abdullah II of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Prince which has provided a common ground to the world for peace and shed light on interfaith harmony in light of Quran and Sunnah.

He said that first week of February every year is the time to spread harmony and tolerance among followers of the three monotheistic faiths and all the world’s religions.

The MISC president said that World Interfaith Harmony Week (February 1-7) came about as a result of a UN resolution for a worldwide week of interfaith harmony proposed in 2010 by King Abdullah II and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal 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” among religions to safeguard world peace. Its message invites everyone, excludes no one, and is purely voluntary.



Gambia: Euclid Celebrates UN World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on February 10th, 2016

By Abdoulie Nyockeh


EUCLID head office in Banjul joined the rest of the world to celebrate the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week on the theme: “A common word.”

The United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week is observed worldwide annually from 1 to 7 February.

EUCLID is an intergovernmental organisation with a University Charter and mandate established in 2008 under the United Nations Treaty series 49006/49007, and it has had its headquarters in Banjul since 2013.

EUCLID is currently serving 12 participating states across four continents with an understanding of the critical issues relevant to cultural, diplomacy, international relations and the peaceful co-existence of people of different religions, races, and so on.

To ensure the international usefulness of its programmes offered, EUCLID is chartered to confer diplomas, degrees and completion of certificates accredited by the ministries of education of the participating parties.

A member of the University Consortium, EUCLID receives the mandates to facilitate universal access to higher education and to foster the acquisition of knowledge and competencies under the supervision of the ministries of education and foreign affairs of the participating countries or parties.

Through direct participating and cooperative agreements, EUCLID currently serves 12 participating states and four intergovernmental organisations such as CAFRAD, ECOWAS, ICC, LLPI, as well as selects students from other governments and from the general public.

The mission of EUCLID is to deliver best of class distance education and consulting services to participating states’ officials, as well as to the general students.

According to its statutes, Section 111, EUCLID’s official mission is to develop and offer training programems for officials and employees of the participating parties, especially ministry and university senior staff, to develop and offer high-quality degree programmes for the general public, regardless of location and citizenship.

It was also to facilitate the creation of cooperative networks and programmes relevant to its educational initiatives, promote the international image of the participating parties, as well as corporate institutions, and offers support to the educational institutions located in the participating parties.

It also broadens the understanding of the field of distance education and promotes the implementation and dissemination of methods, norms, rules and guidelines that apply to this field.

It as well strengthens and supports the national capacity to engage in sustainable development through ad-hoc training and education, while taking into consideration the traditional social and cultural values of each nation.

During the celebration, there were various presenters who dilated on the overview of EUCLID University and the celebration; EUCLID’s participation at home and abroad and the importance of peaceful co-existence of religions, the Islamic perspective, current global insecurities and the Christian perspective.


“Religious leaders stress media’s importance in spreading tolerance”

Posted on February 9th, 2016

“Religious leaders stress media’s importance in spreading tolerance”

“Religious leaders stress media’s importance in spreading tolerance”

By Rula Samain

Christian and Muslim religious leaders on Saturday, February 6, stressed the role of the media in spreading a culture of tolerance, respecting the “other”, and human dignity.

At a panel discussion titled, “The Role of Media in Promoting Harmony and Enhancing Human Dignity”, held at St Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Society in Amman to celebrate the UN’s sixth annual World Interfaith Harmony Week, Awqaf Minister Hayel Dawood said the harmony found in Jordan’s diverse society is a model for the region.

The relationships between the followers of different religions should move beyond dialogue, Dawood added at the event, organised by the Arab Media Council in cooperation with the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media (CCSM).

“People should be aware of the aim of creation: to preserve nature, take care of each other and respect humanity, which all religions demand, and especially Islam, which calls for human dignity and respect to all regardless of people’s colour, religion or race,” he added.

Dawood highlighted that religious platforms are “tremendously” important in spreading harmony and coexistence, as well as guiding others.

“In the almost 6,000 mosques around the Kingdom, two million men and women attend to listen to the imams’ preaching. Imams, for their part, should be prepared to send a clear message, conveying Islamic ethics that do not divide or discriminate, and surely should not instigate
hatred,” he said.

The minister stressed that the killings, displacements and attacks taking place in the surrounding region do not represent any religion, but must be attributed to the individuals committing such acts.

Father Rifat Bader, director of CCSM, said media and social media should abide by ethics and values and aim to be an effective tool for spreading harmony among the people.

“Social media outlets have a huge effect on people and thus should aim at spreading the speech of moderation and tolerance against hate speech, terrorism and extremism,” he said.

Father Mohammad George Sharaiha, speaking on behalf of Archbishop Elie Haddad of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Sidon, agreed that the media is an effective tool and should enhance the culture of dialogue and coexistence, educating people as to the true meaning of harmony.

At the end of the event, a committee was formed to draft recommendations from the panel discussion to be submitted to decision makers at a later date.

In another event, celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week, marked from February 1 to 7, on Saturday evening, Majeda Omar, director of the Royal Institute of Inter-Faith Studies, said harmony between the followers of religions is essential since humanity “brings us together”.

Religion plays a role in building peace, achieving unity and coexistence, she said at the event, organised by the Community Ecumenical Centre of the Lutheran Church.

“There is no joy or stability in our existence without spreading the spirit of brotherhood, solidarity and coexistence, regardless of religion and the diversity of cultures,” she added.

Samer Azer, pastor of the Lutheran Church in Jordan, said conflicts between moderation and extremism are constant and present in all religions; and therefore, it is the responsibility of the different segments of society to stand for humanity.

World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010, by His Majesty King Abdullah.

Mon, 02/08/2016 – 10:50




Buddhist Reflection on Interfaith: In Observance of UN World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on February 9th, 2016

This entry was posted by Shirley Pinkerton on February 8, 2016 at 11:12 am

Buddhist Reflection on Interfaith: In Observance of UN World Interfaith Harmony Week

With today’s rapid pace of technological advancement, the world is getting more and more connected. Using the Internet, we can easily search what’s happening out there and who’s doing what. We are widely exposed to diversity. This is not limited to the cyber world. Especially living in a big city like New York, whether we like it or not, we encounter people from various cultural, social and religious backgrounds on a daily basis; in our work place, at a store, at a meeting, or on the street. Throughout human history, and today we see how mistrust and misunderstanding, especially among people of different faiths can destroy individual, society and country. So there is an urgent need for people of faith to work together to overcome mistrust and misunderstanding and build a peaceful co-existence. Therefore interfaith harmony is not an option but a necessity in a world of diversity.

The Buddhist approach to religious diversity is very clear: there are different paths to Truth. As such, other faiths are not wrong; they are simply different. But, as human beings, we tend to regard what is different as wrong.

Sotaesan, the founding master of Won Buddhism, has a unique story that shows why Won Buddhism takes an active role in interfaith dialogue and cooperation. After years of searching for truth, Sotaesan reached enlightenment in 1916. When I read his life story for the first time, I was a little skeptical about his enlightenment, because I am reluctant to believe those who claim to be enlightened. But the following story was convincing enough to catch my attention. After his enlightenment, Sotaesan got some of the basic scriptures of Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and some other teachings from eastern religions. After reading them he said: “ancient sages had known what I have come to know”, which means that his awakened mind allowed him to see what other enlightened masters had already experienced. It made perfect sense to me that Sotaesan confirmed his awakening by understanding other spiritual teachings. Though they used different words to express their awakening according to different times and places, the ultimate reality they experienced was one. From this point of view, Sotaesan guided his students to be respectful and open minded to other religious traditions.

People often ask me if they need to be a Buddhist to practice meditation and Buddha dharma. I tell them, “No, it’s not necessary.’ Actually, I’m not a big fan of using labels. Once we put a name on something, it is easily stereotyped and we start to draw a line between what is and what is not; between what is right and what is not right. We create a box and start to think that we have to be one way or the other.

I call myself a Buddhist for the sake of convenience. Indeed, I am a Buddhist, more specifically a Won Buddhist. But when I really reflect on this, I see labeling myself is not always helpful. It can become another egocentric idea that i cling to. I need to remind myself I don’t practice dharma to become a Buddhist, but that maybe it’s the other way around; I practice dharma not to become a Buddhist. More precisely speaking, a true Buddhist is not a Buddhist, meaning that we don’t cling to the idea of being a ‘Buddhist’. A true Buddhist has no fixed name as a Buddhist realizing that everything is conditioned, changing and momentary. We practice dharma to remove all the labels that we hold on to: the idea of who I am, what I can do, or how the world is supposed to be. When we really let go of such labels, we can live life to the fullest.

Dogen, a Japanese Zen master wrote:

To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. 

From the Buddhist point of view, interfaith harmony can be realized by understanding who we really are, and how everything is interconnected with one another. With this understanding, we can see what’s beyond our different names and forms. Once we see this interconnectedness, then mutual understanding and respect will naturally arise, just as a shadow follows us.


Below is Pope Francis’ video on inter-religious dialogue;


World Interfaith Harmony Week came about as a result of a UN resolution proposed in 2010. This UN resolution urges all the member states to support the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during the first week of February every year. Since 2011, the first week of February has been observed and celebrated as the World Interfaith Harmony Week.



Austrian President Heinz Fischer says Austria must face challenge of integrating refugees with dialogue

Posted on February 5th, 2016

DSC3170Speaking at the International Dialogue Centre on Tuesday, the Federal President of the Republic of Austria, Dr. Heinz Fischer, stressed the importance of interreligious dialogue as Austria faces the challenges of integrating refugees fleeing turmoil and violence in the Middle East.

The President said that if the country does not face these challenges now, then there will be even greater problems in the future.

“The long-term integration of these individuals into our society is a major challenge. I would like to reiterate that Muslims who live in Austria can and should be a valuable part of our society. It is possible to be a good Muslim and a good Austrian simultaneously,” he said.

The President was speaking on the occasion of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which is celebrated every year in the first week of February. He was hosted at the event by the Secretary General of KAICIID, Faisal Bin Muaammar.

In his lecture, President Fischer emphasized that Austria’s longstanding record of promoting dialogue between religions and cultures has been a valuable asset in recent times, and that this sort of dialogue was now more important than ever.

The war in Syria has worsened the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and Austria has received one of the highest number of refugees per capita in Europe. As the refugee crisis makes it necessary for countries to quickly and effectively integrate large numbers of people from other religions into their own societies, the practical importance of interreligious dialogue becomes clear.

“The integration of refugees in Austria in the coming years will increasingly need to be part of the dialogue between religions. The inclusion of vulnerable people is a serious, societal responsibility that needs to be carefully and knowledgeably accomplished with a view to securing social cohesion and social peace in Austria. It cannot be denied that this will also entail problems,” he said.

“I consider dialogue, being open to discussion, and the ability to engage respectfully with other viewpoints (even when one does not share them), to be a basic requirement for peaceful coexistence between people, communities, cultures and religions,” he said.

The President traced the roots of several current international conflicts to the manipulation of nationalism, ideology, and power to marginalize individual rights, or the rights of the weaker sections of society. In order to bridge the mistrust, or oppression, of those of other religions and cultures or nationalities, he said, “voices of reason, signals of moderation and willingness to talk are needed.”

He emphasised that KAICIID exists to serve these goals. “As a platform for interreligious dialogue, as a bridge builder in interreligious and intercultural dialogue, it can seek to be a cosmopolitan, open, international dialogue partner. Its work and mandate, as laid out in the establishment agreement, strengthen cooperation and mutual respect at the international level, and promote a tolerant exchange of views between religious communities.”

“KAICIID is the only international organization to work together on an equal footing with leaders of the five major world religions. The center has the potential, through its work, to create a better understanding between religions and thereby make an important contribution to the development and advancement of human rights,” he said.

In his welcoming words, the KAICIID Secretary General, Faisal Bin Muaammar described how the International Dialogue Centre works to support the integration of refugees into Austria.

“If refugees are to return to peaceful homes, or to integrate into new circumstances, then we must find a way to help people accept and not fear differences. Dialogue helps us achieve this. In dialogue we recognize that we are all equals and share core values. Austrian religious communities have shown great commitment and resolve in supporting the integration of refugees here in Austria. We are trying to do our part to support these efforts, by providing religious communities the means to help more refugees, he said.”

The International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) is an intergovernmental organization that promotes dialogue to build peace in conflict areas. It does this by enhancing understanding and cooperation between people of different cultures and followers of different religions. The Centre was founded by Austria, Saudi Arabia and Spain. The Holy See is the Founding Observer. Its Board of Directors comprises prominent representatives from five major world religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism). The Board designs and supervises the Centre’s programs.



KAICIID Dialogue Centre
+43 1 313 22 408



Locals celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on February 4th, 2016

Locals celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week

Published February 3, 2016 – 4:16pm
<br />
The United Nations declared the first week of February as World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2010. (Anthony Power, @AMPwerx)<br />

The United Nations declared the first week of February as World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2010. (Anthony Power, @AMPwerx)


For anyone looking to learn a little more about other religions, the first week of February is the perfect time to do so.

World Interfaith Harmony Week runs from Feb. 1 to 7 and has a full slate of events throughout Halifax.

Churches and other places of worship across the city are opening their doors for anyone to come in and see how things operate in other religions.

“It’s an opportunity to visit sacred spaces in Halifax to observe, meet and engage with diverse faith communities,” said Kim MacAulay, a Buddhist and the coordinator of the Interfaith Peace and Friendship Centre at Mount Saint Vincent University.

Throughout the week, there will be prayer sessions at various places of worship culminating with a celebration of World Interfaith Harmony on the Feb. 7.

The United Nations declared the first week of February as World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2010.

“Each year we keep adding more and it keeps growing,” said MacAulay. “It’s pretty exciting actually.”

Despite the apparent differences between the faith groups, Anthony Power, participating faith group member in Interfaith Harmony Halifax and member of the Baha’i faith, chooses to focus on the commonalities between faiths.

He says the basic principles like “Love Thy Neighbour” are common across all faiths.

“Religion has always been with us, it’s been our guidepost to further advance civilization, so it’s great that people get to know other faith groups,” he says.

MacAulay says her group has invited people and organizations from across the globe to sign a “Declaration of Interfaith Peace and Friendship.”

To date, 10 organizations and four community leaders have signed the declaration, including MLAs Iain Rankin and Patricia Arab. MacAulay says she’s anticipating many more declarations in the coming days.

Given the tragedies from around the world that are both directly and indirectly related to religious intolerance, MacAuley says the importance of understanding different faiths is intensifying and growing.

“This week offers us all a chance to meet each other as human beings and get to know each other.”

She says given the amount of Syrian refugees coming into Canada and other parts of the world, Interfaith Harmony Week this year takes on a whole other meaning.

“Halifax needs and wants immigrants to come and stay,” she says. “If we want this to happen, we need to become even more welcoming, accepting and respectful of diverse faiths and cultures.”

For more information on World Interfaith Harmony Week in Halifax, visit


World Interfaith Harmony Week : Steps Toward A Harmony Renaissance

Posted on February 4th, 2016

World Interfaith Harmony Week : Steps Toward A Harmony Renaissance

Rene Wadlow
Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 10:46am
World Interfaith Harmony Week : Steps Toward A Harmony Renaissance
The Association of World Citizens, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations, cooperates fully with the World Interfaith Harmony Week, which takes place February 1-7. The UN General Assembly designates the first week of every February as a time for cooperation for a common purpose among all religions, faiths and beliefs.The General Assembly, building on its efforts for a culture of peace and non-violence in which World Citizens have played an active part, wishes to highlight the importance of mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue in developing a creative culture of peace and non-violence. The General Assembly recognizes “the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions in enhancing mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.” The week has a potential to promote the healing of religion-based tensions in the world.

As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote,

At a time when the world is faced with many simultaneous  problems—security, environmental, humanitarian, and economic—enhanced tolerance and understanding are fundamental for a resilient and vibrant international society. There is an imperative need, therefore, to further reaffirm and develop harmonious cooperation between the world’s different faiths and religions.

Global citizens have stressed that peace comes from cooperation beyond the boundaries of ethnicity, religion and nationality, and have called for a cultural renaissance based on the concept of harmony. Rather than concentrating primarily on conflicts, struggles, and suffering, they have  suggested focusing on cooperation, coexistence, and visions of a better future. Harmony includes tolerance, acceptance, equality, and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts. Harmony leads to gentleness, patience, kindness, and thus to inner peace and outward relations based on respect.

World Citizens maintain that harmony is a universal common value. In harmony, we can find true values that transcend all cultures and religions. The meaning of life is to seek harmony within our inner self. Humans are born with a spiritual soul that develops to seek self-fulfillment. Our soul has a conscience that elevates us. As our soul grows to maturity, we achieve our own harmony.

However, harmony is not only a personal goal of inner peace, but a guideline for political, social and world affairs. Citizens of the World believe that our actions should enhance peace, reduce conflict, and activate a culture of harmony. The 21st century is the beginning of a Harmony Renaissance. Our world mission is to be ready for humanity’s next creative wave to lead us to a higher level of common accomplishment. The World Harmony Renaissance will bring the whole world into action for this new millennium of peace and prosperity with unfettered collective energy.

World Citizens have underlined the strong contribution that Chinese culture could play in the creation of this harmonious culture. In an earlier period of Chinese thought during the Song Dynasty, there was an important conscious effort to create a Harmony Renaissance.  This was a period of interest in science —“the extension of knowledge through the investigation of things.” It was a time when there was a conscious effort to bring together into a harmonious framework what often existed as separate and sometimes hostile schools of thought: Confucianism, Buddhism, philosophical Daoism and religious Daoism. These efforts were called Tao hsuch, the Study of the Tao, an effort Western scholars later termed “Neo-Confucianism.”

Zhou Dunyi, often better known as the Master of Lien-his, was a leading figure in this effort. He developed a philosophy based on the alternation of the Yin and Yang, each becoming the source of the other.

Today, after decades of conflict when the emphasis of nations both in policy and practice was upon competition, conflict, and individual enrichment, we need to emphasize harmony, cooperation, mutual respect, and working for the welfare of the community with a respect for nature.  When one aspect, either Yin or Yang, becomes too dominant, equilibrium needs to be restored.

Obviously it takes time to put into place a harmonious society at home and a harmonious world abroad. The cultivation of harmony must become the operational goal for many. As Mencius, a follower of Confucius said,

A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week is an opportunity to open new paths. As global citizens, we must find a new guiding image for our culture, one that unifies the aspirations of humanity with the needs of the planet and the individual. We hold that peace can be achieved through opening our hearts and minds to a broader perspective. We are one human race, and we inhabit one world. Therefore we must see the world with global eyes, understand the world with a global mind, and love the world with a global heart.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens



Dubai hosts World Interfaith Day on Feb. 3

Posted on February 3rd, 2016

Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE’s Minister for Culture, Youth and Community Development, to inaugurate


Dubai will host the World Interfaith Harmony Day under the patronage of Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE’s Minister for Culture, Youth and Community Development, on February 3 at the Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights Hotel.

The meet takes place during the first week of February every year. The World Interfaith Harmony Week (February 1-7, 2016) provides a platform for all interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill to gather and express their solidarity and work together to promote harmony and goodwill in the world.

This year, the conference will focus on how peace at home builds peace in the world. It will bring together a combination of international leaders from faith groups, universities, businesses, NGOs and public institutions to discuss the contribution of various faith traditions in building peaceful homes and strong families which are essential components for building peace in the world. The objective is to facilitate peace and harmony between people of all religious and philosophical traditions while exploring ways to work together to strengthen homes and communities.

Frode Mauring, UNDP Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Acting In-charge for UAE, Oman and Qatar, is among the key speakers from the faiths of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism who will offer insights on how to nurture and build peace at home and how to connect it to peace in the world.

There will be presentations and discussions by political, religious, educational and business leaders. The main topic is ‘Peace At Home Builds Peace in the World.’ Sub-themes of the summit include:  What Holy Books Teach about Peace in the Home, The Role of Youth in Building Peaceful Homes and Communities, Scholarly Perspectives on Connecting Peace in the Home to Peace in the World and Developing Collaborative Interfaith Projects. Two hundred local and international delegates are expected at the conference.

About the week

‘”World Interfaith Harmony Week celebrates the principles of tolerance and respect for the other that are deeply rooted in the world’s major religions. The observance is also a summons to solidarity in the face of those who spread misunderstanding and mistrust,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan at the UN General Assembly in September 2010 and was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly on October 20. In the resolution, the General Assembly, points out that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace and establishes the Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.

The UN General Assembly encourages all states to support the week to the spread the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s mosques, churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship, on a voluntary basis and according to their own religious traditions or convictions.

Organising committee of the Dubai event

This event is hosted by Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar, Dubai.

The organising committee comprises Prof. Nasr Arif, Director of Islamic Civilisation Academy in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development, UAE, Dr. Brian J. Adams, Director of Centre for Interfaith & Cultural Dialogue in the Griffith University, Australia, and Surender Singh Kandhari, Chairman of Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara, UAE.


Social Cohesion Minister highlights Guyana’s religious diversity

Posted on February 1st, 2016

Social Cohesion Minister highlights Guyana’s religious diversity

February 1, 2016 By 

World Interfaith Harmony Week

By Devina Samaroo


Social Cohesion Minister Amna Ally, in her message to the nation in observance of World Interfaith Harmony Week 2016, charged all Guyanese to embrace their cultural and religious diversity in order to overcome the various hurdles in life with the aim of achieving the highest levels of social cohesion.

Social Cohesion Minister Amna Ally

Social Cohesion Minister Amna Ally

Interfaith Harmony Week provides the ideal opportunity for interfaith and other groups of goodwill throughout the world to demonstrate what a powerful movement they are in effecting change within their communities.

The Social Cohesion Minister, in her charge to the nation, commended those local organisations that have embarked on initiatives in observance of the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2016 and have contributed year-round to promoting unity.

Ally noted that Guyana has always been a country with a deep reverence for God and as the country continued to develop, there was an increasing role for religion and goodwill in fostering social cohesion.
“We know once social cohesion as an approach to development is advanced, there would be greater opportunities for citizens to be included in processes. Their participation would enable them to have a sense of belonging to their communities and by extension to Guyana,” she said.

On that note, the Minister underscored that the faith-based organisations and other interfaith partners in Guyana, therefore, had significant roles in advocating for and taking action to advance communities.

“I urge you to be active as agents of change at the local and national levels, for the benefit of your respective gathering, congregations, members, constituents…,” she said.

Moreover, Ally addressed the current discourse on prayers in schools and reiterated that Government respected the right of all persons to worship God as they please.

“It is a constitutional right. Our dynamics are particularly peculiar in Guyana, because of the myriad of cultures, religious persuasions, ethnicities and all those variables, which cause us to be diverse. There would be a conclusion to this discussion and I am sure, here again you have roles to play as Guyana’s interfaith community,” Ally stated.

World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2010, and was subsequently unanimously adopted by the United Nations.

It had its genesis in “The Common Word Initiative”, which in 2007, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in dialogue based on two fundamental religious principles and by extension Commandments – Love of God and Love of the Neighbour. It was agreed on with the understanding that neither side would compromise any of its religious tenets.

The theme, “Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour’ is commonly used and embraces fundamental theological principles, and, therefore, all mankind of goodwill can be included in the observances.
World Interfaith Harmony Week is celebrated from February 1-7 every year.


Super Bowl or Souper Bowl? Celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on January 31st, 2016

Super Bowl or Souper Bowl? Celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week

World Interfaith Harmony Week
World Interfaith Harmony Week
World Interfaith Harmony Week

While much of the Bay Area is focused on the lead-up to Super Bowl 50, several of their neighbors will be joining “Souper Bowl,” an effort to gather containers of soup for local food banks. This week is World Interfaith Harmony Week, declared by the United Nations in 2010 as a time for noting and celebrating the many ways that individuals, groups, and nations work to build religious harmony among those of diverse traditions. The original declaration highlighted “the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people,” and added that “the moral imperatives of all religions, convictions and beliefs call for peace, tolerance and mutual understanding.” The declaration reaffirmed that “mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace,” and proclaimed “the first week of February every year the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs.”

World Interfaith Harmony Week has its roots in the Common Word Initiative, an effort that brought Christians and Muslims around the world together to explore two fundamental principles: the love of God and the love of neighbor. These are core commandments among the three Abrahamic traditions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Over time, these principles have been expanded to include others outside those traditions, emphasizing a call to “love of the good, and love of the neighbor.” In this way, those of other faiths, and no particular faith, are invited to join in the effort of building peaceful relationships and cooperative efforts to benefit the whole community.

In Santa Clara County, SiVIC, the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council, will once again participate in the Compassion Games “Coopetition” during Harmony Week. The Coopetition is a seven-day global challenge to promote acts of peace, collaboration and tolerance between people of all faith, spiritual, and humanistic traditions. During this week, individuals and teams will use the spirit of coopetition (cooperative competition) to inspire shared acts of service, giving back to their communities and strengthening mutual respect, understanding, and harmony between people of all backgrounds. On the SiVIC website, you can find information about how to participate in the WIHW Compassion Games, along with a list of public events, including a Buddhist-Muslim dialogue, and Interreligious Leaders Forum, and a panel discussion on “Interfaith and Combating Phobia.”

In Fremont, community members are invited to “Meet a Muslim,” on Monday, February 1 at Mission Coffee, located at 151 Washington Blvd. Mona Shaiq and Azam Khan will be there to answer your questions about Islam and Muslims. Then, on Saturday, February 6, from 1:00 – 4:00 pm, the Tri-City Interfaith Council will hold a World Interfaith Harmony Day Celebration at the Veteran’s Memorial Buliding, 37154 2nd St. Participants from over 10 Faith Groups will share booths with information on each faith, and there will be a moderated panel of Faith Leaders, refreshments and stimulating conversation.



Interfaith week on environment starts Sunday

Posted on January 29th, 2016

Interfaith week on environment starts Sunday

By Elaine Ayala

January 28, 2016

Father Ron Rolheiser shown in 2005, when he became president of Oblate School of Theology. A popular speaker and author on Catholic spirituality, he will be named San Antonio’s new peace laureate at the peaceCENTER’s annual Blessing of San Antonio Peacemakers on Sunday. Photo: ROBERT MCLEROY /SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS / 2005 SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS


Father Ron Rolheiser shown in 2005, when he became president of Oblate School of Theology. A popular speaker and author on Catholic spirituality, he will be named San Antonio’s new peace laureate at the peaceCENTER’s annual Blessing of San Antonio Peacemakers on Sunday.

In recognition of World Interfaith Harmony Week, the University of the Incarnate Word with various San Antonio faith groups will present an 11-day series of events on the topics of peace and climate change.

“Together Caring for Creation: An Interfaith Week of Learning, Reflection and Commitment to Action” will include talks, music, recreational activities and worship services. Ongoing until Feb. 8, many events are free.

A worship service at 11 a.m. Sunday will be hosted by Celebration Circle at SAY Si, 1518 S. Alamo St.

Here are some highlights:

3 p.m. Sunday, Oblate School of Theology’s Whitley Center, the peaceCENTER’s annual Blessing of San Antonio Peacemakers will feature the appointment of Father Ron Rolheiser, the Oblate School’s president, as San Antonio’s new peace laureate.

6:15 p.m. Monday, UIW Rosenberg Skyroom, scholar and author Zeki Saritoprak will speak on “Jesus in Islam.”

7 p.m. Monday and again Feb. 8, SoL Center, University Presbyterian Church, 300 Bushnell Ave., retired Trinity University professor Meredith McGuire will speak about water stewardship in the face of climate change. Cost is $35; register at (210) 732-9927, or

11:30 a.m. Tuesday UIW Mabee Library Auditorium, screening of “Renewal, a Documentary Film” about Americans from wide-ranging faith traditions who have become environmental caretakers.

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, San Antonio Friends Meetinghouse, 7052 N. Vandiver Road, “Caring for Creation: An Evening of Guided and Silent Meditation.”

10:30 a.m., Thursday, UIW Mabee Library Auditorium, “Caring for Creation: An Exploration of Climate Change and Faith from a Biblical Perspective.”

11:30 a.m. Thursday, Episcopal Church of Reconciliation, 8900 Starcrest Drive, “Celebrating the Season of Creation in Worship,” a workshop for worship and community leaders of all faiths.

6:30 p.m. Thursday, UIW Mabee Library Special Collections Room, “The Islamic Declaration on Climate Change.”

7 p.m., Thursday, Lord of Life Lutheran Church, 5955 FM 78, music program, “Divine Harmony, Human Voices Call Out to God.”

1 p.m. Friday, Heritage Hall, Village of the Incarnate Word, “Laudato Si,” a discussion of the pope’s encyclical on the environment.

6:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Temple Beth-El, 211 Belknap Place, “Pursuit of Harmony,” a Shabbat service featuring Jewish singer-songwriter Michael Ochs and Palestinian songwriter and commentator Alan Alshaham.

9:30 p.m. Sunday, San Antonio Mennonite Church, 1443 S. St. Mary’s St., “Caring for Creation,” adult Sunday school on scriptural aspects of creation care.

6 p.m., Monday, library, Denman Estate, 7735 Mockingbird Lane, “Centering Prayer and Discussion on Ecology.”

For complete event listings, visit

Twitter: @ElaineAyala



Why Ugandans should embrace interfaith week

Posted on January 29th, 2016

In Uganda, this day is being commemorated in Muyenga on February 1, by the Nile Dialogue Platform, an organisation promoting interfaith and intercultural peaceful coexistence.

Muhsinnuwagabakaduyu 703x422

Muhsin Nuwagaba Kaduyu is a peace promoter at the Nile Dialogue Platform



By Muhsin Nuwagaba Kaduyu

February 1 – 7 is World ‘Interfaith Harmony Week’ that seeks to spread the message of harmony and tolerance among the followers of different faiths.

This day was launched to promote harmony among people of different faiths at a time when interreligious conflict is claiming lives and livelihoods all over the world. This week is timely for Uganda considering that February is also the month when the general elections will be held in the country and, therefore, messages of harmony and tolerance among all the political contestants and everybody should be promoted.

In Uganda, this day is being commemorated in Muyenga on February 1, by the Nile Dialogue Platform, an organisation promoting interfaith and intercultural peaceful coexistence.

This day is very relevant to Uganda because research shows nearly nine out of 10 Ugandans say religion plays a key role in their lives.

The survey, conducted by the US-based Pew Research Centre shows that Uganda is one of the most religious countries in the world, with nearly nine out of 10 people saying religion (Christianity or Islam) plays a key role in their lives. Titled ‘Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa’, the report shows that Uganda ranks 15th in Africa and 20th worldwide in the ‘most religious’ tables. This precisely indicates that Ugandans live a God-centered life.  Such a life, a life of “For God and My Country” is absolutely opposed to violence.

A God-centred life, where God is paramount and where we all regard ourselves as faithful servants of the divine master should be an antidote to the culture of violence that is so prevalent in the world today.

A ‘culture of violence’, according to S. Bastanov, refers to a mentality that presupposes that human life is expendable In the name of some holy goal, or even without such a goal, and that any institution, group or individual, in a position to do so, can resort to coercion by force to deal with other institutions, groups or individuals that have different values of ways of life.

As a Muslim, I understand a God-centred life being one that is more than simply adhering to a dogmatic list of beliefs or performing ritual actions. It is a way of going beyond perfunctory religiosity to put God at the heart of one’s human consciousness and the centre of one’s hopes and motivations.

The vision of such kind of a life resonates so well with my limited understanding of Christianity and human existence. In the most basic Christian catechism we read that men and women were created to “know, to love, and serve God”. Thus an ideal of the God-centered life is a point of convergence that should unite all Ugandans, especially Muslims and Christians.

The preamble of the constitution of the UNESCO states: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed”. Thus, as believers and true Ugandans, we should build a culture of peace flows from a commitment to respond faithfully the mission of all the Prophets, who were chosen by God to help build better social relations, regardless of who the “other” is.

A person’s actions proceed from the inclinations of his heart and emotions and from sensibilities and needs of his spirit.  If those basic drives are left unchecked, one’s emotions can easily lead him to either spontaneous or premeditated violence.  However, “For God and My Country” should place in our hearts and minds, a permanent ‘prohibitor.’ When sinful desires emerge from the soul, they are repulsed and declared forbidden. In this way, the violent impulses that arise from our emotions and sensitivities can be controlled and held in check by our religious convictions before they lead to aggressive and destructive behavior.

Religion teaches the sacred dignity of each person. A sincere believer in God, a true Ugandan for that matter, cannot consider another person’s life expendable for any reason. He cannot even violate the dignity of others by forcing them to accept his idea, beliefs, or behavior.

Finally and most importantly, I call upon the religious leaders to use this opportunity and model for our people a helpful and peaceful way to coexist with each other. The ability of the religions to thrive and foster development in Uganda will depend upon our ability to live with and cooperate with those from other faiths without abandoning our own identities.

The writer is a peace promoter at the Nile Dialogue Platform



First official interfaith week to be hosted by Better Together, student secular community

Posted on January 29th, 2016

First official interfaith week to be hosted by Better Together, student secular community


In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously to make World Interfaith Harmony Week the first week of February. This year, Concordia will be observing the week with events and dialogue hosted by Better Together and the Student Secular Community.

Members of the Better Together Lead Team discuss plans for interfaith week at a meeting earlier this week. Photo by Maddie Malat.

Members of the Better Together Lead Team discuss plans for interfaith week at a meeting earlier this week. Photo by Maddie Malat.

Julia Brucklacher, community lead for Better Together took on the challenge of bringing Interfaith Week to Concordia this year. Brucklacher witnessed interfaith weeks on other campuses, namely at University of North Dakota, where her dad works as a campus pastor.

“We, Better Together, chose to do interfaith week at Concordia in conjunction with World Interfaith Harmony Week, [because] our aim is to educate the student body and the community while celebrating our faith and non-faith diversity,” Brucklacher said.

Brucklacher and Better Together aim to create an inclusive and safe community through the events of this week, by collaborating with the F-M community and Concordia’s SSC.

“We have four interfaith chapels, three evening events and we will be tabling during the week,” Brucklacher said.

According to Brucklacher, the evening events will include a presentation on Islamophobia in the media, a food sampling of some dietary restrictions of different religions and a secular student panel. All events are open to students, faculty, staff and the local community.

Rosina Halverson-Studer, co-president of Better Together, sees this week of events as a natural extension of the work Better Together does every week.

“In the past few years we’ve put on some wonderful events, but we haven’t yet capitalized on the fact that there is this national interfaith harmony week,” Halverson-Studer said. “In light of … ongoing xenophobia, Islamophobia and … fear-motivated rhetoric that has been surrounding the general elections, we have a responsibility … to offer students opportunities to grapple with those issues … and seek understanding of groups they might not have encountered prior to college.”

interfaithweekjpgHalverson-Studer said an interfaith week like this has not occurred in the past because there was not a student passionate enough to lead the charge in the organization process. Also, Better Together is busy throughout the year planning other interfaith events.

Brucklacher said that the desire to create an interfaith week has been among Better Together in the past.

“Honestly, I don’t think people have seen an example,” she said. “I was really motivated, and I knew it was possible because I have been to interfaith weeks before.”

With the experience from witnessing other interfaith weeks, Brucklacher felt confident using the organizational expertise of Better Together and bringing the event to Concordia.

“Concordia College practices interfaith cooperation because of its Lutheran dedication to prepare thoughtful and informed global citizens who foster wholeness and hope, build peace through understanding, and serve the world together,” she said.

Brucklacher believes that college is the time to form these interfaith bonds and strengthen our identities through these types of interactions.

“It is important for college students to get involved in interfaith work and interfaith dialogue because it is a time where we are finding our passions, and we continue to form who we are.”

Karen Besonen

Karen Besonen is a senior Multimedia Journalism major, originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota. She is an enthusiast of music, along with keeping a personal blog and following the action on Capital Hill. She has a passion for traveling and philanthropic work, and with her degree, she hopes to work for a Christian nonprofit that fights the trafficking and exploitation of children.

More Posts



Zambo residents urged to join World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on January 28th, 2016


Zambo residents urged to join World Interfaith Harmony Week

 Wednesday, January 27, 2016

ZAMBOANGA City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has urged the residents to join and support the observance of the week-long World Interfaith Harmony Week in Mindanao.

Salazar has issued Executive Order No. BC 16-2016 that enjoins the active participation and support of all schools, government entities, private institutions, non-government organizations, parishes, church-based organizations, civil society groups, urban poor communities and other people’s organizations in the various activities lined up for the said week-long celebration.

The UN General Assembly during its 34th plenary meeting has proclaimed the first week of February of every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs.

The harmony week celebration in this city is spearheaded by UN Interfaith Harmony partners, the Silsilah Dialogue Movement and the National Ulama Conference.

The UN General Assembly issued the proclamation as it recognizes the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.

The international organization further recognizes that the moral imperatives of all religions, convictions and beliefs call for peace, tolerance and mutual understanding.

This year’s celebration is anchored on the theme: “Celebrating Harmony: The Wellspring of Hope and Peace.” (Bong Garcia)


King honours winners of World Interfaith Harmony Week 2015

Posted on April 21st, 2015


AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah on Monday acted as patron at the King Abdullah II World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) award ceremony.

During the ceremony, which took place at Husseiniya Palace, His Majesty presented awards to the top three winners, according to a Royal Court statement.

Royal family members and senior officials attended the event.

The WIHW was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by King Abdullah. Just under a month later, on October 20, 2010, it was unanimously adopted by the UN and henceforth the first week of February has been observed annually as World Interfaith Harmony Week.

The Royal Aal al Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought established the WIHW award to recognise three activities or publications that best contribute to the promotion of the occasion.

First prize was awarded to Pakistan’s Universal Interfaith Peace Mission, represented by Allama G R Chishti, for its various events in a range of locations including Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Roz TV Pakistan, Jame Masjid New Sohan and Divine Light Public School in Islamabad, according to the WIHW website.

The recipients of the second prize were Gisela Jahn and Beatrix Jakubicka of Germany for their “Friedenskette der Religionen” in Munich connecting 15,000 people in a human chain of light between five houses of worship.

The third prize was awarded to the World Interfaith Harmony Week Toronto Steering Committee of Canada for their eight events during the WIHW, including Launch Event, Interfaith Dialogue Circle, How We Talk To God, Race And Religion, Faith And Social Justice, Christian-Jewish Dialogue, An Evening Of Interfaith Performing Arts, Interfaith Ecology Hike, and Efforts To Obtain Government Of Canada Support, the website said.

Ninety-three applications were received for the prize from over 900 events held in total, WIHW said, adding that the judges focused primarily on those who had the courage to hold events in areas marked by recent interfaith tension or conflicts in addition to the excellence of efforts.

The interfaith week is an annual platform to raise awareness and understanding between followers of different faiths and promote dialogue and goodwill through conducting activities and events that spread this message, the Royal Court statement said.

The idea behind interfaith week comes from the work of the Common Word initiative, launched in 2007 to call on Muslim and Christian scholars to engage in constructive dialogue based on shared values: the love of God and love of neighbour without religious prejudice, to strengthen the shared ideological religious ground, as these two messages are at the heart of the three major religions.

In an address at the ceremony, HRH Princess Areej Ghazi, head of the award jury, said the world has seen around 900 events celebrating His Majesty’s initiative, representing approximately a 100 per cent increase compared to those held last year during the WIHW, the statement said.

She also highlighted the King’s efforts and his relentless defence of Islam and its true essence as a religion of tolerance and mercy.

HRH Prince Ghazi, the King’s personal envoy and adviser for religious and cultural affairs, HRH Princess Jennah Bint Ghazi, Royal Court Chief Fayez Tarawneh and King’s Office Director Jafar Hassan also attended the ceremony.


King honours winners of King Abdullah II Award for World Interfaith Harmony Week

Posted on May 9th, 2014

His Majesty King Abdullah poses for a group photo with participants in the King Abdullah II World Interfaith Harmony Week awards ceremony in Amman on Sunday (Photo courtesy of Royal Court)


AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday acted as patron at the King Abdullah II World Interfaith Harmony Week award ceremony.

During the ceremony, which took place at Husseiniya Palace, His Majesty presented the awards to four winners.

Royal family members and senior officials attended the event.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week was initiated by the King, who put it forward to the 56th session of the UN General Assembly, which unanimously adopted it.

The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought established this award in recognition of three activities or publications that best contribute to the promotion of World Interfaith Harmony Week, adopted by the UN (PV/65/a.34) resolution. The week is annually marked in the first week of February.

First prize was awarded to the UN Interfaith Harmony Partners in the Philippines, in recognition of the work they have done, for the third year running, in celebrating harmony week in the city of Zamboanga.

The recipients of second prize was the Centre for Peace and Human Rights in India, in recognition of the initiative they undertook called “An Ordinary Step for Ensuring Extraordinary Peace” in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Third prize was shared between the Gamal Farghaly Sultan Secondary School in Assiut, Egypt, in recognition of their event “Peace, without Prejudice” and Faiths Together, and Uganda for an event at their Goma Health Centre III, in Goma village.

The interfaith week, which began after the UN unanimously adopted the initiative of His Majesty in October 2010, is an annual platform to raise awareness and understanding between followers of the different faiths and promote dialogue and goodwill, through conducting activities and events that spread this message.

The idea behind interfaith week comes from the pioneering work of the Common Word initiative that was launched in 2007 which called for Muslim and Christian scholars to engage in constructive dialogue based on shared values: the love of God and love of neighbour without religious prejudice, to strengthen the shared ideological religious ground, as these two messages are at the heart of all three major religions.

Head of the award jury, HRH Princess Areej Ghazi, said during her speech: “I am honoured, on behalf of myself and my fellow esteemed award panel members, to congratulate the efforts made by the participants in this noble project, which we consider a call for a new Fadoul Alliance [between tribes before Islam].”

She added: “The Messenger of Allah, PBUH, commended Al Fadoul Alliance in the pre-Islamic era, saying that if he was invited after Islam to join it, he would do that.”

“Echoing a similar call, Your Majesty, you have called the entire world and followers of all religions and beliefs to celebrate a world week based on the love of God and love of righteousness, which is a divine quality, and love of neighbour. The world has responded to the call and adopted the idea unanimously.”


She stressed that “the week has been officiated by the UN since 2011, and this year, Your Majesty, you accepted that the award by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought be named after you, so that the rest of the world be encouraged to take care of this week and the noble principles it was built on”.

She also said: “This is not new to you, Your Majesty, as your blessed reign is full of initiatives that serve Jordan, serve Muslims, serve people in general and serve peace, and that is in spite of the sparse resources in our country, which is nonetheless rich in its spirit, people and history.”

She added: “The King’s initiatives in this regard are numerous, with a notable example being the historic global consensus on the three points of the Amman Message, which included the first global Islamic scholarly consensus on the definition of a Muslim, and outlined who can declare someone kafir [apostate] and under what conditions, and who can issue fatwas and under what conditions.”

She pointed out that the King’s initiatives include the exegesis project, which is the biggest electronic [Koranic] interpretation site in the world, and whose website last year had 15 million visitors. It provides over a hundred Koranic interpretations for users all around the world.

She also drew attention to the “Common Word” initiative by His Majesty, which has been described by many top Western intellectuals as “the most successful initiative between Muslims and Christians in history”.

She said: “This award, God willing, will mark the celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week, and thus will contribute to the easing of religious tensions around the world, God willing, and through God’s grace they can become like our beloved Jordan, the model of religious harmony in the world, through God’s grace and through our beloved King’s wisdom and the blessing of the wise and fair people of this nation.”

The general director of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Dr Minwer Al Mheid, said that four years after the launch of World Interfaith Harmony Week, it has become a reality where partners, from different religious beliefs and intellectual, cultural and political affiliations are attracted by its message of peace, harmony and goodwill.

He added that those who work towards the realisation of this initiative are joined by their common interest in realising noble humanitarian principles, consolidating harmony between all people, making world peace and promoting mutual respect among the followers of the different religious beliefs.

He stressed that countries, organisations and communities, as well as individuals, took the initiative to establish events and activities on World Interfaith Harmony Week on a voluntary basis, and held seminars, lectures and lessons in schools and educational institutes, with articles being written and research carried out to further this cause, this humanitarian message has reached people around the world, and “we hope that in the coming few years to double the number of participants and increase the events and reach our desired outcome, God willing, which is to spread harmony amongst all of mankind by removing hostility, hatred and resentment”.

The number of functions staged as part of the International Interfaith Harmony Week was 213 in 2011, 290 in 2012, 363 in 2013 and 406 this year.

His eminence, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, chief adviser at Aal al-Bayt Institute said in his remarks: “We start this meeting, which pleases God and pleases people with, peace and God’s mercy and blessings be upon you. As-salam is the word that represents peace is also one of God’s names and a name for heavens, too. It stands for harmony, security and faith. The interfaith week you have proposed, Your Majesty, is a reflection and implementation of the meaning of this blessed word.”

He added: “The peace we seek to translate in the World Interfaith Harmony Week is achieved through the concept of sharing, when man shares with brotherly human beings coexistence, work, principles and interests, so that we can build the world. God has ordered us to do so [in the Holy Koran] saying: “It is He Who hath produced you from the earth and settled you therein.”

He said that the harmony week gives humans back their humanity, goodness and willingness to build the world, through joint efforts, where all bets are placed on youth from all faiths, to take part in such efforts and help break the barriers of differences between people.

Addressing the King, he said: “Your Majesty, you are the descendant of the noble family of the Prophet. It is people’s religious duty to love you. All causes blood relations and connections will be void on the Judgement Day, except the blood line of Prophet Mohammad, to whom you belong.”

For his part, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem said that each year, “commitment to the goals and ideals of this week has increased around the world and has contributed to the transformation of the life of local communities, especially communities under pressure”.

He said the 2010 UN resolution “crowned over a decade of commitment by the General Assembly to focus the attention of the world in the creation of a culture of peace-building, non-violence and mutual understanding among the faithful of different religious traditions, and it also highlighted the commitment of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to this crucial endeavour”.

The Orthodox patriarch said that such values are the great gift of both the Resolution of the General Assembly and of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, which established the award programme, adding: “This annual prize-giving ceremony not only awards those who have done outstanding work in this arena, it also highlights the many ventures around the world — a growing number each year — which seek to promote those values and virtues that are vital to the common human future that we must build together.”

Theophilos III congratulated the winners, saying: “We congratulate this year’s prize winners, and we encourage all those others who have shared with us the work that you are doing around the world.   We bring to all of you the spiritual blessings of Jerusalem, the city that is holy and dear to us all.”

Bishop Munib A.Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of the Lutheran World Federation, started his remarks with conveying greetings from the people of Jerusalem to His Majesty and their prayers for peace and justice, expressing their appreciation and gratitude for the Hashemite custodianship of the holy shrines and for everything the Monarch does for Jerusalem.

Younan said that thanks to the King’s efforts and consecutive initiatives, Jordan has become the centre of world interfaith harmony and the launching pad for spreading these values among peoples and countries.

He said: “In a time of globalised extremism, where the mass media are giving negative portrayals of religion and especially which is quite often informed by Islamophobia, we are pleased to find that there is a yeast fermenting in many societies, a yeast that is quietly transforming religious extremism into religious moderation.”

The bishop added that these dynamic forces would strengthen and empower those people who are promoting moderation, and courageously standing for the Common Word initiative, which came from Jordan, stressing that “true religion is a religion that not only loves God, but our neighbour as ourselves”.

Younan said the prize laureates “are the champions who will change our world for the better. These champions are essential to our social progress when we find ourselves in times of separation and prejudice against the other”.

He added the role of religious leaders to strengthen and empower every initiative that hopes to transform extremism to moderation and denial to acceptance of the other.

“Today, it is our role to pull down walls of separation, hatred, prejudice and fear. Now is the acceptable time for humanity to seek mutual acceptance. We as Christians in Jordan are committed for this peace work and education, because with your guidance, King Abdullah II, we have a role model par excellence…. We promise, Your Majesty, that Arab Christians will continue to be the voice of Arab Muslims that we know and are our good neighbours wherever we are. It is the call of God to everyone of us to be the voice of harmony.”

Jordan last year hosted a conference on the challenges facing Christian Arabs and ways to address them, with a view to preserve the role played by Arab Christians and protect their existence, especially in Jerusalem, and their contribution to Arab Islamic culture.

Speaking on behalf of the winners, Father Sebastiano D’Ambra said: “We are honoured to be here for this event not only to receive, but also to express our gratitude to Your Majesty and those who are helping you in the promotion of the World Interfaith Harmony Week.”

He added that the Silsilah Dialogue Movement he represented started with Muslims and Christians in the Philippines, following the outbreak of a conflict that had resulted in a lot of victims. The Silsilah Dialogue Movement, D’Ambra noted, was formed with the hope to build peace starting from a spiritual aspect of dialogue based on love.

He stressed that his movement welcomed the new initiative with great joy “because we believe in this approach and since the beginning we have emphasised a dialogue and peace approach based on love of God, love of neighbour”.

In 2012, the group engaged many people in the city of Zamboanga to celebrate this special week together.  “We encouraged the National Ulama Council of the Philippines to take the lead” and entrench the values of the interfaith week.

The interfaith activist added that the winners of the award are striving equally hard to promote peace in their respective countries, and it is a great encouragement to meet them, exchange ideas and experiences, and to participate in this global solidarity of love of God and love of the neighbour.

Member of the award jury Father Nabil Haddad told the Jordan News Agency, Petra, that in its second edition, the award is characterised by holding the name of King Abdullah, who took the initiative and presented it to the world. He noted that the idea of the award is to pick the most suitable activities that stand for the concept behind World Interfaith Harmony Week and help spread a culture of harmony among the followers of different faiths, based on the values of love of God and love of neighbour, and for non-monotheistic religions, love of good and love of neighbour.

He said the jury panel had received several nominations from the world, adding that focus is not only on interfaith, but also on humanisation of this dialogue and making sure it reaches youth and society.

World interfaith harmony, Father Haddad added, is an idea that sprang from Amman and was presented to the entire world. “Every day, we present from Amman a model for the entire world, reflecting the achievements our society witnesses based on the vision of the Hashemite leadership, based on love of God and love of neighbour. This is what we find in every Jordanian household and we are proud of it. We give that to the world and ask people to come and see what we have.”

The ceremony was attended by HRH Prince Ghazi, King’s chief adviser for religious and cultural affairs and personal envoy, Royal Court Chief Fayez Tarawneh, King’s Office Director Imad Fakhoury, Kingdom’s Grand Mufti Abdul Karim Khasawneh, senior officials and guests.




Interfaith harmony

Posted on February 18th, 2014

Read the rest of this entry »