Ban lays stress on understanding as Harmony Weeks begins

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New Kerala

United Nations, Feb 2 : The UN has embarked upon the first World Interfaith Harmony Week with a wide range of activities across the globe, including India.

“The first World Interfaith Harmony Week is an opportunity to focus global attention on the efforts of religious leaders, interfaith movements and individuals around the world to promote mutual respect and understanding between followers of different faiths and beliefs,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message as the week began yesterday.

In November, the UN General Assembly resolved that the first week of February be devoted to spreading, ”the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship…based on love of God and love of one’s neighbour or on love of the good and love of one’s neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions.” Film screenings and panel talks held by civil society, UN entities and other intergovernmental organisations marked the beginning of the week.

These partners play an indispensable role in supporting UN efforts for peace, Mr Ban noted.

“Respect for diversity and peaceful dialogue are essential if the human family is to cooperate globally to face shared threats and seize common opportunities,” Mr Ban said.

“That is why efforts by States, civil society and other actors to build trust among communities and individuals lie at the heart of so many United Nations initiatives, from the Alliance of Civilisations to our wide-ranging work to protect human rights, promote social cohesion and build a culture of peace.” The Alliance of Civilisations is an initiative launched in 2005 by Spain and Turkey under the UN auspices to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide.

From Jerusalem to Malappuram in Kerala, from Amman in Jordan to Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, from Sedona in the US to Newcastle in Australia, and other places, special events are being held to put the spotlight on the need for interfaith understanding.