Senate bill urges gov’t to hold interfaith activities

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MANILA, Philippines – A bill recently passed in the Senate is seeking to foster “genuine understanding amongst people of different faiths and belief systems” by urging government agencies to hold interfaith activities during the first week of February every year.

Senator Loren Legarda, author of World Interfaith Harmony Week Bill, said in a statement Monday that “this measure will greatly contribute to easing any conflict or tension caused by differing religious beliefs in the country.”

The Philippines, the largest Catholic country in Asia, has long suffered from internal conflicts due to rebel secessionist groups. One group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has recently signed a peace framework agreement with the government.

“Gatherings and activities for World Interfaith Harmony Week have been held in various countries across the world with diverse backgrounds, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Italy, and Jordan,” Legarda said.

More than 40 countries in the world are already celebrating the World Interfaith Harmony Week following a resolution by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

According to the website of the World Interfaith Harmony Week, the event was originally proposed to the UN by HM King Abdullah II of Jordan back in 2010.

He proposed the idea with the aim of achieving a “faith-driven world harmony by extending his call beyond the Muslim and Christian community to include people of all beliefs [and] those with no set religious beliefs as well”

The idea was later adopted unanimously as a UN Observance Event.

Legarda noted that “even in our country, the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines (NUCP) staged a gathering in Zamboanga City in honor of inter-religious cooperation.”

The bill also advocates dialogues among leaders of religious institutions. “The harmony we are pushing for is democratic, and built on effective communication and mutual respect,” Legarda said.

The bill has been passed on third and final reading in the Senate and is awaiting approval in the lower house, she said.  Zoe Rodriguez