UN Marks Interfaith Harmony Week: “Common Ground for a Common Good”

Posted on February 12th, 2012

Feb 7 2012 (UN News Centre) —

The President of the General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser today stressed the potential of all of the world’s religions to promote global peace and stability, saying that faiths have common principles that can be used to bring about grater unity and harmony among people.

“We recognize and celebrate the values that are shared across religious traditions,” said Mr. Al-Nasser at a General Assembly event to mark the end of the annual World Interfaith Harmony Week, which was established by Member States through a resolution adopted by the Assembly in 2010.

“The common principles form a common ground that unites us in our rich diversity,” said Mr. Al-Nasser, noting that the UN was itself established in pursuit of universal values such as peace, freedom, human rights, dignity, and the oneness of humanity, which are also espoused by many of the world’s religions.

“These principles have been translated by Member States into the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Mr. Al-Nasser at the event, whose theme was ‘Common Ground for the Common Good.’

The common ground includes respect for human rights; affirmation of the equal value of all human beings; the importance of compassion and service to others; and the universal aspiration for peace, he added.
He announced that he will on 22 March convene a one-day thematic debate in the Assembly on “fostering cross-cultural understanding for building peaceful and inclusive societies,” which, he said, will draw on the discussions at last year’s 4th Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations in Doha, Qatar.

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro noted that although faith is “the glue that often bonds communities and cultures around the world,” it was too often used as an excuse to emphasize differences and deepen divisions. “Only by finding common cause in mutual respect for shared spiritual and moral values can we hope for harmony among nations and peoples,” she said.

She urged the interfaith community to speak out against extremism, advance tolerance, and stand firm for social justice, dignity and mutual understanding. “Today’s event is testament to the benefits we can all derive from coming together and learning from each other,” said Ms. Migiro.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of The Common Word initiative. This initiative, which started in 2007, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments; Love of God, and Love of the Neighbour, without nevertheless compromising any of their own religious tenets. The Two commandments are at the heart of the three Monotheistic religions and therefore provide the most solid theological ground possible.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week extends the Two Commandments by adding ‘Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbour’. This formula includes all people of goodwill. It includes those of other faiths, and those with no faith.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week provides a platform—one week in a year—when all interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill can show the world what a powerful movement they are. The thousands of events organized by these groups often go unnoticed not only by the general public, but also by other groups themselves. This week will allow for these groups to become aware of each other and strengthen the movement by building ties and avoiding duplicating each others’ efforts.

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