World Interfaith Harmony Week is an annual event in the first week of February each year. This is an activity supported by member-states of the United Nations.
The foundation to World Interfaith Harmony Week lies in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This declaration enjoins on all nations to follow freedom of religion and belief and the practice of that belief, in whatever form or rituals that expresses a belief-system.
The United Nations went one step further in forming the Alliance of Civilisations. The Alliance of Civilizations was proposed by the Prime Minister of the Government of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2005. It was co-sponsored by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an. The initiative seeks to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
The Alliance of Civilizations welcomes efforts to promote greater understanding and respect among people from different civilizations, cultures and religions, with emphasis on how interreligious and intercultural
dialogue can make to an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind.
The common values of humanity often include universal principles such as truthfulness, honesty, fairness, justice, right conduct, non-violence and peace. These principles are often essential for our personal and social survival. Human Values are those universal concepts, drivers of action which are found in all cultures, all societies, all times and in all places where human live, work, play and seek fulfilment. The five human values which can be found in all most cultures and religions are Truth, Right Conduct, Love, Peace and Non-Violence. These values are eternal; they are eternal essences, which elevate human life to its highest expression, its highest capacity.
The theme of World Interfaith Harmony Week is Love of God and Love of Neighbour, or, Love of the Good and Love of Neighbour (for those cultures which do not utter the name of the Divine in public or private discourse). This theme recognises and builds on interreligious and intercultural dialogue which makes significant contributions to mutual understanding, tolerance and respect, as well as to the promotion of a culture of peace and an improvement of overall relations among people from different cultural and religious backgrounds and among nations.
Logo of World Interfaith Harmony Week
Examples from the Asia Pacific Region:
The Buddhist Coalition for Social Development has led workshops promoting ethnic and religious understandings in local communities.
From April to May 2011, traveling from Phnom Penh to Kompong Chhnang to monitor network and conduct activities, it was a journey which revealed a vitality and openness in their experience of community life.
The networks of three districts Rolea B’ier, Tuek Phos and Kompong Chhnang cooperated with the Buddhist Coalition for Social Development and the Alliance for Conflict Transformation. Together, these organisations collaborated to deliver activity training workshops on community peace building and conducted many gatherings of local communities to talk about religions and peace to 384 participants (199 female).
In particular, the network organized these activities aims to
- To share knowledge of conflict and peace understandings to communities
- To help the community to identify the causes and effects of conflict
- To reduce prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination within the multi ethic and religious communities
- To integrate Buddhist engagement via dissemination into community peace building and deepenen their own personal mindfulness practice
The results were opportunities to network and share what they learned from both Alliance for Conflict Transformation and the Buddhist Coalition for Social Development into practice to raise the community awareness on peace and conflict understanding in the remote area of Kompong Chhnang. It was an important space where community can be exposed to new idea about positive peace and the cause and effect of conflicts. “It is an honor that the network of ACT conducts this event in our village. This is a one day activity but an important gathering that we can learn how to live in harmony within multi ethic and religious community. I strongly encourage you to listen and ask question for understanding,”said the local authority in his opening in TnalTaseng, SvayChrom.
Cambodia – Interfaith Capacity Training: Empowering Interfaith Networks
The workshop was conducted for 1 day, meeting on 25th Oct 2011, at Kampot Diamong Hotel, Kampot province. The workshop brought together those who had participated in the previous years since 2006-2011. These people come together and shared their activities they’d been doing since they attended the Interfaith Co-operation for Peacebuilding training with the IIPC. The training was organised let them share about their life, their journey, their involvement with the Interfaith field, and how can they apply these collaboration principles in daily life and work. Activities engaged reflections on inner peace, mindfulness, awareness, anger, fear and stress management, trust building, living values and tolerance were undertaken by all the participants. Strategic networks were formed for future activities and teamwork among teams in Kampot was self-selected and agreed by all among their team.
Amongst the 30 particpants on the day were 5 ladies who were invited from the active networks in Kampot province. The remainder participants came from the provincial leaders, the provincial department of religion and cult and the religious leaders, teachers, and officers in the province. Networks in Kamport province participating in training and exercises since 2006-2011 came from 5 Districts – Chuk, TeokChou, ChumKiri, DamnakChangEr, and KampongBaay district. The day’s participants invited to join for the Empowering Network decided among themselves to have 3 network groups for Kampot and Kep province ”ChumKiri and TeokChouk, TeokChou and DamnakChangEr and KampongBaay, and Kampot city groups as most of the network was already founded, working there in Kampot city”. The department of Cult and Religion also took part in supporting the network and will consult with them when needed.
The Network groups also decided to rotate the leadership among the different faiths for a term of one year each. This faciliates stronger cohesion and bonds and enables leadership to be taken up by many.
Work at grass roots levels promotes tolerance of cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic diversities along borders and between nations, and contributes towards peace, mutual understanding and friendship among people of different cultures and nations. Thesediversities at grass-roots level are the foundations for future peace among nations. I*ntercultural and interreligious dialogue efforts bear fruits slowly over a period of time.
Humanity slowly moves into an age where discord and violence may be resolved by sitting down and discussing differences – it is this area that inter-religious dialogue and intercultural understanding lay very deep foundations for the future of mankind.
“World Interfaith Harmony Week ~ Love of the Good, Love of the Neighbour