United Church of Canada Marks World Interfaith Harmony Week

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Canada is not immune to the poisonous influence of religious bigotry, persecution, and hatred, says The United Church of Canada’s Moderator, Mardi Tindal.

“Incidents of vandalism that target places of worship or other religious sites are reminders that work still needs to be done to build bridges of understanding here at home as well as internationally,” says Tindal. Tindal made her comments in conjunction with the start of World Interfaith Harmony Week on February 1.

In October 2010, the United Nations declared the first week of February World Interfaith Harmony Week. The UN resolution encourages all states to voluntarily support the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship.

When the resolution was first introduced to the United Nations General Assembly, it was acknowledged that “Our world is rife with religious tension and, sadly, mistrust, dislike and hatred. These religious tensions can easily erupt into communal violence. They also facilitate the demonizing of the other which in turn predisposes public opinion to support war against peoples of other religions.… The misuse or abuse of religions can thus be a cause of world strife, whereas religions should be a great foundation for facilitating world peace. The remedy for this problem can only come from the world’s religions themselves. Religions must be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Tindal says that the UN resolution reaffirms that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace.

She adds, however, that World Interfaith Harmony Week is not just about finding common ground among people of faith, or dialogue among religious leaders. She says it’s important to include all people of goodwill in the conversation—those of other faiths, and those with no faith.

“World Interfaith Harmony Week provides the opportunity for all of us to recognize that the common values we hold far outweigh the differences we may have,” says Tindal. “It is also a good time to consider how we bring our common values to our shared societal challenges.”

The United Church of Canada participates in interfaith dialogue and action through local, national, and global organizations including the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Significant resources, including group study guides, are available on whole world ecumenism, United Church–Jewish relations, and United Church–Muslim relations.