The inaugural award ceremony for the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought’s 2013 World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize took place on Thursday, April 25, under the Patronage of H.M. King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, at the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) on the River Jordan.

The event was attended by H.R.H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, deputizing for H.M. King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, and H.R.H. Princess Areej Ghazi, the Chair of the judging panel. His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III, the Patriarch of the Holy City, Palestine and Jordan, and His Eminence Bishop Munib Yunan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and President of the World Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, who were on the judging panel also spoke at the event.

“The candidates’ achievements have demonstrated the dynamic and potent power of interfaith relations and how, through dialogue we attain to Harmony which is the embodiment of cooperation, mutual understanding and respect that are common attributes inherent to the very essence of religion.” —H.B. Patriarch Theophilus III

In judging, the judges were mindful particularly of those who had the courage to hold events in areas marked by recent interfaith tension or conflicts. They took into consideration efforts made despite scantiness of resources, but also took into consideration the excellence of efforts. They further took into consideration whether events were consistent with the text of the U.N. Resolution establishing the Prize. Accordingly, judges did not reward movements towards religious syncretism but rather rewarded events which respected each religion as it is. Finally, in accordance with the terms of the Prize, judges rewarded events specifically celebrating the World Interfaith Harmony Week rather than good interfaith work in general.

Proceedings started with the national anthem, a recitation from the Holy Qur’an, followed by an introduction from Dr. Minwer Al-Mheid, the Director of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought. He praised all those who had applied for the Prize and the quality of events organized this year throughout the world (read his speech here).

“The goal of this noble humanitarian initiative is to spread peace and harmony among all people and to promote mutual respect between the adherents of the world’s different religions and beliefs.” —Dr Minwer Al-Mheid
His Excellency Bishop Yunan highlighted how this year’s winners had challenged the status quo within their society to combat extremism and proclaim a message of peaceful co-existence. His Grace also described all the candidates as heroes - even though they are not in the headlines of the media - for the work they do to reform and transform their countries to societies of harmony. I was His Grace’s opinion that those who work towards peace and harmony are artists; for it is an art to do so (read his speech here).
”As I read the 64 applications for candidacy, I was pleased and thankful to God that there are still people in the world, even though they are not in the headlines of the media, yet they are building bridges for peace and living in harmony. They are the ones who will reform and transform their countries to societies of harmony.” —H.E. Bishop Yunan Muneeb

His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III then thanked all those who had come for the day to see the presentation of the prizes, especially the winners who had travelled from afar (read his speech here).

Finally Her Royal Highness Princess Areej Ghazi took the stage to thank all those involved in the prize, including the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought for having set up the prize. She explained the criteria she and her fellow judges had used in selecting the winners and how hard it had been. She reminded those present of the power of the message of the World Interfaith Harmony Week and how it allows those of all religions or of no religion to take part under the title: Love of God and Love of the Neighbour OR Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour (read her speech here).

“So let us be of those who remember God, and teach and learn His ways in Peace and Harmony.” —H.R.H. Princess Areej Ghazi

The prizes were presented by His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad.

First Prize was awarded to the Interfaith Mediation Centre, Kaduna, Nigeria for their event: Imam and Pastor from Vengeance to Forgiveness.

Second Prize was awarded to the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, Philippines for their event A Common Word Towards A Common Peace.

Third Prize was awarded to the Department of National Unity and Integration, Malaysia for their event World Interfaith Harmony Week Malaysia 2013.

All the prize winners spoke briefly to thank the judges and all those involved, and all are shining examples of what the World Interfaith Harmony Week is about.

The event finished with the prize-winners taking photographs with His Royal Highness and the judges and the national anthem.