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 firstname.lastname@example.org