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 ihhalifax.ca.