World Inter-faith harmony week, 2020, has just been celebrated 01-07 February.
Fr. Hermes (Larry) Sabud, SM, Chair of the Marist Inter-religious Dialogue Commission prepared this paper for the occasion.
1. What is World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW)?
The United Nations (UN) on October 20, 2010, recognizing the need of dialogue among different faiths and religions and their contribution for peace in the world, has proclaimed the first week of February of every year the "World Interfaith Harmony Week" between all religions, faiths and beliefs. The UN encourages "all States to support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the interfaith harmony and goodwill. The celebration based on the love of God and love of one's neighbor or on love of the good and love of one's neighbor, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions (UN Resolution).
2.Why do we promote this special week?
Because we believe in the spirit of this initiative. It unites us with many in the world who are joining together to rediscover and celebrate "Interfaith Harmony" guided by the basic principles/commandment of the love of God and the love of neighbor. This special week is gaining great attention in the world and is a sign of hope.
3. There are already many other initiatives of dialogue and peace, why this new one – World Inter-faith Harmony Week?
The United Nations as international body realized that there is a need for a specific attention on the "interfaith harmony" guided by the love of God and the love of neighbor. This is a move toward a more "spiritual approach to dialogue and peace". The UN is convinced now more than ever that development and peace without "love" cannot be achieved in the world. Thus, it is a new paradigm of dialogue and peace that finds many willing to rediscover and celebrate together "Harmony to love God and Service to one's neighbor".
Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the spokesperson of the H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan, the proponent of the World Interfaith Harmony Week to the UN says that "harmony cannot be understood as merely tolerance, acceptance or peace. We cannot use the term 'peace' alone because it suggests merely the absence of war, and not necessarily the absence of hatred. Only the Confucian concept of 'harmony' can rescue us here because it suggests not merely 'peace', but also beautiful and dynamic interaction between different elements within a whole".
4. As Marists in the different parts of the globe, how can we become part of the celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week?
There are so many initiatives and activities around the world that are trying to promote peace and harmony even in the midst of conflicts, violence and war. We could connect with some of the groups in our area and join them, or even support their initiatives for dialogue and peace. We can also encourage our confreres to pray for peace and harmony in the world in a very special and creative ways during the celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week.
Here in Ranong, Thailand, we will mark the celebration of the WIHW on the 28th of February 2020 at the Marist Asia Foundation (MAF) Center. The theme of our celebration is: "Celebrating Difference Towards Harmony". We will invite a Burmese Monk, a Muslim religious leader (Imam) and the Catholic parish priest of Ranong to lead an interfaith prayer. We will also organize a harmonious painting exhibition for the students in our school to help the students and staff of the MAF to understand the meaning and importance of the celebration of the WIHW. We hope that this simple initiative would continue to radiate peace and harmony in Ranong and beyond.