URI Cooperation Circles around the planet marked World Interfaith Harmony Week, celebrating diversity and cooperation amongst people of different faiths with candle lighting ceremonies, music and song, prayers, festivals, interfaith visits, symposia, roundtables, and other events. Below is a brief report and photos from some of the events:
Photo courtesy of United Nations/Paulo Filgueiras
Monica Willard, URI representative at the UN, and President of the Committee of Religious NGOs for the UN, was a lead organizer in this year’s official UN observances of WIHW. Speaking at the special "Common Ground for the Common Good" event at the UN (pictured) on February 7th, Monica addressed the assembled interfaith leaders, UN delegates, and distinguished guests, focusing on this year’s themes of interfaith harmony’s role in four main areas: conflict mediation; disaster preparation and relief; sustainable development; and revitalizing the UN. Debra Bernstein, URI’s acting Executive Director also attended the event. For a full video of the UN event: UN World Interfaith Harmony Week Webcast
(Monica Willard’s presentation is 25.33 minutes into the webcast.)
For more on the UN event, see http://www.uri.org/the_latest/2012/02/un_celebration_marks_world_interfaith_harmony_week
Friends and members of URI MENA in Amman, Jordan come together to light a candle for peace and harmony, marking the opening of WIHW around the world.
URI – Great Lakes Region – Africa
URI Great Lakes Region held interfaith visits to the Baha’i and Sikh Temples in Kampala, including an interreligious dialogue session at the Baha’i Temple on the inspiration and challenges of conducting interfaith work and possible "interventions" to these challenges. The day ended with a candle lighting ceremony and prayers at the Sikh Temple in celebration of WIHW.
SOUTH INDIA/SRI LANKA
URI South India Kirackham International School students in Kerala gathered for a morning assembly that included a candle lighting ceremony, interfaith prayers, and a rousing chorus of "This Little Light of Mine…I’m Gonna Make it Shine". More activities continue throughout the week.
PAKISTAN – Lahore-
The Lahore, Pakistan CC, led by Fr. James Channan, OP, marked the beginning of WIHW with the lighting of a "peace candle" at the Peace Center Chapel in Lahore. Five Dominican seminary students joined in the candle lighting ceremony with prayers, expressing "our communion and full agreement with the noble initiative of WIHW." It was also to join with the URI – MENA region’s ceremony in Jordan marking the Feb. 1 opening of WIHW.
PAKISTAN – Sargodha and Fasialabad
The Women & Children’s Development Program URI Cooperation Circle opened the Week with a candle lighting ceremony at Basharat-E-Ibn-E-Mariam School System. Throughout the week, they are also using their "Time Out Prayer" at 11:30 each day to offer "Our Common prayer is May Peace Prevail on Earth," and prayers for interfaith harmony.
PAKISTAN – Khanewal
Bethak CC, Khanewal Region, Pakistan celebrated World Interfaith Harmony week with over 150 persons attending an interfaith candlelighting ceremony and prayers for peace. Francis Jacob, Director of BETHAK spoke, saying "(P)eace and harmony can not be promoted until we get out of the bonds of discrimination and non-acceptance of people from different faiths." Other speakers highlighted the importance of diversity in religions, cultures and ethnic groups, and the need to accept each person as a unique individual. A host of musicians and singers offered poetry and peace songs, playing traditional instruments and using regional musical forms. A meal was shared by all participants afterwards.
In Bulgaria, Bridges CC, along with a Muslim organization TOLERANCE, organized and participated in "Building Bridges of Tolerance", an interfaith roundtable promoting tolerance and understanding among people of different faiths in that country. Bridges’ CC member Angelina Vladikova reports that "Because Muslims and Orthodox Christians have lived together for centuries in my country, we have a tradition of ‘living dialogue’. The issue of interfaith harmony is very important for contemporary European society." In addition to Angelina from URI, Gabriela Naskova, sent by URI ambassador Rosen Dimov, also shared about URI’s Young Leaders Training last year in Bulgaria.
Peacemaker CC in Quezon City, the Philippines, conducted a small interfaith ceremony of prayers and reflection with people from different NGOs. In front of the office space the groups share, they lit incense and offered prayers offered by representatives of the Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and Christian faith traditions. Orlan de Guzman facilitated the event on Feb. 1 to mark the beginning of World Interfaith Harmony Week. Marites Guingona Africa of Peacemakers CC reports that "We realized that there were many simple and do-able things that we could engage in–both individually and collectively—that could promote the spirit of harmony in our midst…(regarding the practice of interfaith work) Most difficult and challenging of all is the practice of seeing goodness in people–especially in those who are most aggressive and hurtful–even when goodness may not be readily apparent."
URI Trustee and member of Faith to Faith CC in the UK, Kiran Bali, participated in an interfaith dialogue and roundtable at the London Central Mosque. Matthew Youde, International Coordinator of URI Youth Leadership Development also attended.
Maria Crespo of URI in Argentina reports she shared a ceremony with other interfaith leaders and CC members, including Alejandro Ponieman and María Carbo from Asociación Intercultural Dialogo CC, and Rabbi Arieh Sztokman from Escuela de Amor CC (pictured). " I must say it was very moving ceremony and that, because we prayed for the whole world, we felt there was a crowd among us."
URI in San Francisco marked the week with a candlelight ceremony in its offices.
In Santa Monica, a concert marking WIHW and the 10th anniversary of the death of journalist and musician Daniel Pearl was highlighted with readings from Pearl’s work, and a message from his father and mother, Judea and Ruth Pearl, that said in part, "Your music will resonate today in sharp defiance of the forces of hatred that took Danny’s life, and will reinforce our unshaken conviction that, at the end of the day, music will triumph and humanity will prevail." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zxy_VIqJSU&feature=related
URI Henderson County, North Carolina sponsors a February 4th concert celebrating WIHW with "Peace Troubadour" Cecilia St. King.