Supporting and Aspiring for Interfaith Harmony

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February 1 to 7, 2012 has been a memorable week in more ways than one for Zamboanga City and its residents.

Backed by a UN proclamation setting aside the first week of February every year to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony, several groups and organizations…
began meeting late in 2011 to plan for celebrating the week in an appropriate manner and thus promote interfaith harmony

Led by the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines (NUCP) the several groups which included the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, two universities, the Office of the ZC Mayor and several other government agencies and NGOs, formed a core working group under the coordination of Alih Aiyub, the Secretary General of the NUCP ZAMBASULTA and a professor in a state university in the city.

Partners of the World Interfaith Harmony Week present during the LaunchingThe activities planned to make the first World Interfaith Harmony Week celebration in Zamboanga a significant one sought to bring to the attention of the general public the importance and the need for harmony between and among the various faith groups. This is particularly relevant to Zamboanga City, the majority of whose population belong to two major religions, Christianity and Islam, and a small minority to other religions.

In its effort to spread the message of interfaith harmony to as many groups in the community as possible, the activities for the week engaged the various sectors of society – students, teachers, business people, government officials at different levels of governance, imams, priests and religious women, the media – to a more heightened consciousness of interfaith harmony. Students participated in sessions (“conversations”) on interreligious dialogue; members of the media on their role in promoting harmony rather than discord; imams and priests/pastors used the theme of interfaith harmony in their sermons to their respective congregations for the weekly Friday prayer and Sunday mass or service. Artists contributed in their special way by holding an art exhibit of their work in the gallery of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University.

At the opening of the exhibit Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, welcomed the guests in lieu of the ADZU President who was away. In his remarks Fr. Alejo made reference to the difference between the empiricism of statistics and the infinite possibilities that art makes possible for man to dream and aspire. Statistics on interfaith discord can be most discouraging but art makes it possible to dream the infinite possibilities for interfaith harmony.

Mayor Celso L. Lobregat giving his message during the Lauching of the World Interfaith Harmony WeekA big gathering of representatives ( chairs and kagawads) from the barangay councils in the city were in big attendance at a special activity for them held in the auditorium of Harmony Village which is the headquarters of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement.

One participant was heard to have said that she was glad that she had attended because “it was the first time I attended an activity on a topic which had an impact on my personal and professional orientation.”
At a business meeting of the week’s partners for the various activities, the consensus was that the week-long celebration went exceptionally well and that the partners exhibited harmony among themselves in all the undertakings.

The partners will meet again in February to work out an arrangement for continued cooperation among themselves in the propagation of interfaith harmony.

The culminating activity was a dinner for representatives of the partners who were most heavily engaged in implementing the week’s activities. It was a way of saying “Gracias” “Salamat” “Magsukol” “Thank you” to one and all. All’s well that ends well.