Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said it was “vital” to promote inter-religious and intercultural dialogue “in times when there are many who seek to divide people of faith”.
The first seven days of February were designated World Interfaith Harmony Week by the UN at the proposal of King Abdullah II and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan.
The week is intended to encourage not only Muslims and Christians, but people of all beliefs and even those of no set religious beliefs to build harmony, cooperation and understanding through dialogue.
It has at its heart the precept of “Love of God and love of the neighbour or, love of Good and
love of the neighbour”.
Dr Tveit welcomed the opportunity for dialogue.
“This is an important time for all of us involved in interfaith dialogue,” he said.
“By recognising this week in our faith communities through prayer, public statements and other expressions we will move toward promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.
“This is vital in times when there are many who seek to divide people of faith instead of finding ways to enhance our lives together through the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination.”
he week was recently endorsed by the WCC, the World Islamic Call Society, the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute and the Consortium of A Common Word at a joint consultation last November.
The consultation at the WCC’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, ended with the call for a joint working group to be mobilised “whenever a crisis threatens to arise in which Christians and Muslims find themselves in conflict”.
The statement also committed the organisations to working together to promote best practice in “living together constructively in plural societies” and building a culture of dialogue and inter-religious cooperation, particularly in the areas of social and environmental issues.
Dr Tveit encouraged WCC members to use World Interfaith Harmony Week as an opportunity to engage with other faiths.
He said: “We invite the member churches of the WCC to celebrate this week of interfaith harmony by reaching out to people of other faiths in their communities and thus showing the love of God and love of neighbour, the primary themes of the week.”