Interfaith News Brief February 2012 [Part 1]

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UN Alliance of Civilizations welcomes World Interfaith Harmony Week 2012

The UN Alliance of Civilizations High Representative, President Jorge Sampaio, has welcomed the establishment of the World Interfaith Harmony Week from 1 to 7 February, 2012. On October 20, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously established the World Interfaith Harmony Week through the adoption of a Resolution upon an initial proposal by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan on September 23rd 2010. The UNGA Resolution on “World Interfaith Harmony Week” reaffirms that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of sustainable peace within and among societies and it proclaims the first week of February of every year the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs.

Welcoming the resolution, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations President Jorge Sampaio said, “The Alliance welcomes efforts by states, civil society, and other actors to build trust and respect among diverse communities – including among religions. “ He further noted that the intent of the resolution is to be broad and inclusive, bringing together people of all religions, faiths, and beliefs.

United Nations observes World Interfaith Harmony Week

The United Nations General Assembly President Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser invited more than 900 participants at UN Headquarters to observe the World Interfaith Harmony Week, the second after 2011. “We recognize and celebrate the values that are shared across religious traditions,” said Mr. Al-Nasser. “The common principles form a common ground that unites us in our rich diversity,” Caritas International has been part of the high-level civil society and NGO coordination to develop the annual World Interfaith Harmony Week in cooperation with the president of the UN General Assembly.

The UNGA President said, 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.

UN Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro encouraged all present to assume their respective responsibilities. “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.

Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, noted the compassion and dignity with which Catholic organisations and others bring to communities around the world, not to empathize numbers or the magnitude of humanitarian responses but rather to underscore our common goal, to protect people everywhere, to expand human security and build peace across borders and barriers.

Speakers representing world religions, indigenous and national traditions added voices and commitments from UNESCO, UN Alliance of Civilizations, Religions for Peace, SRICAITNAYA, Guru Namak Nishkam, American Jewish Committee-Interreligious Affairs, Cordoba Initiative, Goi Peace Foundation, Catholic Relief Services, Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Won Buddhism, Universal Peace Foundation, Committee of Religious NGOs, Civicus and many more.

The search for peace, the opening of greater understanding and respect for all – these are quintessential dimensions for all paths to interfaith harmony, reconciliation, restoration and justice. Without careful dialogue and mediation, our world remains terribly vulnerable.

UN General Assembly President declared today’s gathering an historic event. It brought into international public focus the long, yearning call initiated many years ago by the King of Jordan to promote the vital role of religion in society and in the world. As the Children’s Theatre Company, with youth from ages 5 to 20, brought the entire assembly into a near riveting silence with their rendition of ‘Our World’, all present understood without explanation in the closing moments that our work is now – so their future is vibrant tomorrow!

Islamic Cultural Centre, London observes World Interfaith Harmony Week, 2012

Real interfaith dialogue started more than 1400 years ago by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), said Lord Ahmad of Rotherham, Labour Peer at the VIP Event – Islamic Cultural Exhibition which was arranged as part of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week 2012, on Tuesday, 7th of February, 2012, at the Islamic Cultural Centre & The London Central Mosque. The Islamic Cultural Centre, London and Exhibition Islam jointly organised this VIP Event which was attended by members of Parliament, including Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Lord Sheikh of Cornhill, Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn, Ambassadors of the Muslim Countries, representatives of embassies, members of different interfaith organisations,

Speaking at the VIP Event at ICC, Lord Sheikh quoted from his speech in the House of Lords where he stated, “Unfortunately, there is a demonisation of Islam in certain quarters, and it is important that the media act in a responsible manner in this regard and avoid use of inflammatory language. In regard to suicide bombings, Islam forbids suicide. In the holy Qur’an it is written that,“ whoever kills a human being … it as though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a human life, it is as though he saved all mankind”. This saying is similar to what is written in the Talmud, where it is written, “if you save one life, it is as if you have saved the world”.”

Lord Sheikh also said, “I believe that there are more similarities than differences between people and we should highlight the similarities in order to establish closer links between communities.”

Referring to the Hajj Exhibition at the British Museum, Lord Sheikh said, Hajj Exhibition “explains one of the pillars of Islam and creates better understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.” Lord Sheikh also said, “Mutual understanding, respect, and inter-faith dialogue are essential if we are all to coexist peacefully. Islam teaches us to celebrate the difference and diversity which God has purposefully created in our world.”

Lord Ahmad of Rotherham spoke about interfaith dialogue. He said, “It is important that the Islamic Cultural Centre is providing platform for dialogue but the real dialogue started 1400 years ago by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Lord Ahmed mentioned, “Even long before revelation, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made a society Halful Fazul and also entered into agreement with the Jewish community and people with faith or no faith.

Lord Ahmed also mentioned about Caliph Omar. He said, “When Caliph Omar (may Allah be please with him) conquered Jerusalem he allowed the Jewish community to return to Jerusalem after 300 years when they have been excluded and he included them in all the decision making process.”

“So dialogue started all ago and so we have responsibility to our neighbours,” said Lord Ahmad and then he quoted from the Holy Qur’an, which says, “There is no compulsion in religion.” This stunning exhibition outlines: Islam – The Religion; Islamic History; Islam’s Relations with other faiths. It also allows visitors to view Historic Qur’ans, Torah Scrolls and Bible fragments from across the Islamic World.

The Interfaith Relations Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) organised an event under the heading “Building Trust, Peace & Harmony through Interfaith Relations”, on Monday, the 6th of February, 2012 at the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Sheikh of Cornhill. Lord Sheikh who chaired the event, welcomed the audiences including the Guest of Honour Princess Badiya El-Hassan of Jordan who presented a message on behalf of her father, HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.