Can we be more open-minded to those proclaiming a different faith or no faith at all?Have we ever treated others who have different beliefs as adversaries undeserving of respect and dignity? Can you imagine knowing and living in a community or a world where love dominates and is manifested as interfaith harmony?
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution declaring the first week of February as World Interfaith Harmony Week.
The idea was initially proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan to further broaden his goals of world harmony beyond the Muslim and Christian communities to include not only people of all beliefs, but those without religious beliefs as well.
A few weeks later Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan presented the proposal to the U.N. General Assembly, where it was adopted unanimously as a U.N. Observance Event.
The U.N. resolution calls for "recognizing the moral imperatives of all religions convictions and beliefs call for peace, tolerance and mutual understanding," according to the World Interfaith Harmony Week website at http://worldinterfaithharmony week.com.
As the site explains, the week is intended to "reaffirm that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace;" and "encourage all states to support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week, based on love of God and love of one’s neighbor or on love of the good and love of one’s neighbor, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions."
Think about all the things we can do that can benefit someone else and harm no one. The good news is that we don’t have to travel far from our own community to make a difference.
I recall such a serendipitous encounter when Geraldine Low-Sabado invited me to listen to a CD in her car. This followed the grand opening in October of the Asian collection at the El Gabilan branch of the Salinas Public Library.
I was deeply moved by this special event that featured the Monterey Bay Lion Dancers, Korean music, Asian, Japanese, Indian and Filipino cultural presentations and delicious food.
Gerry is a direct descendant of the first Chinese fishermen in the Monterey Bay area, one of the few left in the area who has a tie to early immigrants. Now she is on a mission to learn about and make others aware of the amazing contributions her family and other Chinese people made in shaping the Monterey Bay area. So there we were, two women listening to "One World" by Celtic Woman: "We’re all a part of one world — we share the same dream, and if you will reach out to me, you will find that deep down inside that I am just like you." It was definitely an interfaith moment!
I used to serve as a chaplain at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. Chaplains are expected to facilitate interfaith services and participate in interfaith community events, among other things.
This can be accomplished without compromising one’s specific faith traditions. My personal experiences that demonstrate unity in diversity include holding a hospital memorial service with a rabbi for a man at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco and responding to a nurse’s concern regarding a Chinese Buddhist patient who was dying. In this second instance, a visit to a monastery enlightened me. I was given an audio recorder of Buddhist chants to place near the patient’s bed.
Most faiths address universal themes: peace, truth, light, wisdom, grace, prayer, love, creator, and oneness. World Interfaith Harmony Week has the potential to promote harmonious interfaith living as the very essence of good will for all people. This is my dream: Love thy neighbor!
> The Rev. Dr. Lillian Capehart is a former chaplain at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.