Interfaith celebration a key step forward

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PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and the government deserve our highest accolades for launching, a fortnight ago, the first celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week.

The various programmes held marked an initial step that needs to be expanded and given greater in the coming years.

World Interfaith Harmony Week is an outcome of a UN resolution, proposed in 2010 by King Abdullah II and Prince Ghazi Muhammad of Jordan, calling on all UN member states to observe a worldwide week aimed to promote accord between all people.

Besides Malaysia, the week was celebrated among others in Egypt, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Philippines and the United States.

Najib was clear in his address to religious leaders at a luncheon at which he said: "We all may be different in our beliefs but there are values we have in common that can strengthen unity and promote peace and harmony.

"It is extremism, rather than differences in faith, that triggers tension among people."

As the King of Jordan pointed out in his address to the UN General Assembly: "The fact is, humanity everywhere is bound together, not only by mutual interests, but by shared commandments to love God and neighbour; to love the good and neighbour."

Let us use the observance of the Interfaith Harmony Week each year, and indeed all year round, as an opportunity to resist forces of division that seek to denigrate and spread mistrust among people of different faiths and cultures.

In our families, in schools and at work, in places of worship and within the community, we should encourage and support the sharing of information and learning about others’ beliefs and the practice of mutual understanding, respect and peace.