Baghdad, 8 February 2013 – To mark the World Interfaith Harmony Week (1-7 February), United Nations envoy Mr. Martin Kobler and a UN delegation participated in a series of visits to several holy places, including the shrine of Imam Hanifa Al-Aadham, Imam Khadum Shrine, Sayyidat Al-Najat Church and the temple of the Sabean Mandeans.
The UN delegation was accompanied by some 30-40 Iraqi youth from different backgrounds, and worked closely with cultural and civil volunteer youth activist Ali Al-Makhzomy on changing perceptions about the role youth and religious leaders can play in promoting peace and harmony among the different communities in Iraq.
“The youth, the future of this country, have a unique role in building peace through dialogue and an immense responsibility in working all together so that people of different faiths and beliefs feel stronger together in times of difficulty,” Mr. Kobler said. He also emphasized the responsibility of religious and political leaders in promoting peace and tolerance among different religious groups.
Parish of Sayyidat Al-Najat Church, Father Aysar Elias Saeed, acknowledged that “clerics should serve as living examples of positive interfaith cooperation, through promoting a tolerant attitude towards other religions and faiths.”
The Secretary General of Imam Khadum Shrine encouraged youth to promote religious tolerance among all Iraqis, while Sheikh Ahmed Ishan at the Imam Hanifa Al-Aadham Shrine stressed the importance for youth and religious leaders to dialogue on matters of religion, encouraging them to continue spreading the message of peace and unity, and noting that all religious beliefs should be respected.
Praying together at the different holy places visited, Muslim, Christian and Sabaen youth all expressed their aspiration for unity, regardless of their faith, religion or belief.
“There is no difference between Sunni, Shiite, Christian and Yazidi or Sabean Mandean, both believers of every religion and non-believers must be able to live harmoniously,” emphasized Sheikh Alaa Aziz, the Deputy Head of the Mandeans in Iraq.
World Interfaith Harmony Week is an annual UN event promoting harmony between all people, regardless of their faith.