New Interfaith Effort Approved by U.N.
Last fall the United Nations approved the first annual “Interfaith Harmony Week,” to be observed in the first week of February of each year. The Week grew out of the “Common Word” document of 2007, declaring ‘Love of God/good and Love of the Neighbour’ common religious ground between Christianity and Islam. (More on the history of the Week.)
According to the U.N. Resolution, “World Interfaith Harmony Week”
—Reaffirms that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace;
—Proclaims the first week of February of every year the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs;
—Encourages all States to support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week, based on love of God and love of one’s neighbour or on love of the good and love of one’s neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions;
—Requests the Secretary-General to keep the General Assembly informed of the implementation of the present resolution.
For Resources, an Events calendar and more, visit Worldwide Interfaith Harmony Week.
CBB Leaders Join Worldwide Supporters
Clergy Beyond Borders board members and friends were among religious leaders sending letters of support for the new effort. Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Director of the Macdonald Center for Study of Islam and Christian Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary (Connecticut), writes:
Ministers, Imams, Rabbis and other preachers and religious leaders often have little time to deliver vital messages to their congregations, and this is why devoting one week a year to interfaith harmony is practical and powerful. When one preacher’s message is echoed around the world, it has great resonance and power. With one sermon or lecture a year, together we can set a new standard for religious leadership and harmony.
CBB founder/president Imam Yahya Hendi writes:
…I hope this initiative creates a new positive relationship between the followers of different world religions. I hope it becomes a way by which we can focus on issues related to gender equity, spirituality, world peace, social, economic and political justice, and inter-religious and interfaith harmony and diversity.
It is about time that we create a movement that internationally raises awareness on the issues of the 21st century which include 1) environmental responsibility, 2) a peaceful resolution to the political conflicts, 3) eliminating poverty, and 4) fighting against the growing sense of militarism,
In Judaism, the word shalom is derived from the word shalem, which means complete, and perfection; therefore peace in Judaism means perfection and completion. Perfections of three levels of relationships to which one aspires: between man and himself, between man and his fellow man, and between the nation of Israel and all other nations.
In Christianity, one would read how Jesus manifested unconditional love for all people. He gave himself to save sinners. He called his disciples to love their enemies, to rely only on faith. Above all, Jesus called on one to judge himself before judging others and to criticize oneself before criticizing others.
The very word Islam from the Arabic Silm includes peace according to a tradition of Prophet Muhammad. Peace is one of the prerequisites of Islam. Islam states that a Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand all people are safe. One of the attributes of God described in the Qur’an is As-salaam, which means peace and security. When war breaks out, the Qur’an teaches that peace and reconciliation are the best of all actions.
One would have to conclude that peace, reconciliation and dialogue are an expression of faith. Peace-building and reconciliation are values we all have to commit ourselves to and encourage because reality demands them and because our religious traditions require them.
There is another path we can model, the path of love, reconciliation and dialogue which streams from our religious commitment to a God of love.
Yet, the fruits of religious convictions and our love of God are not achieved in a vacuum. They are achieved and found in the context of human relationships. Indeed, we cannot understand love except as we see it striving on behalf of all its enemies.
All of us human beings must find within our own traditions sound reasons to value other faiths without compromising our own. We should not tolerate voices of divisiveness. We must use Feb Harmony week to explore the best in each of us. So let us all choose to be united with all of our differences for the best of this nation and all of humanity.
Let Feb events of Interfaith Harmony week inspire us to find a common forum with a common action for the common good of all. Let dialogue become a part of our culture.
In addition to resources referenced above, please visit Clergy Beyond Border’s website and Facebook page for more resources on interfaith dialogue, including 30 Guidelines for Inter-Religious Dialogue.