The first week of February of each year has been designated World Interfaith Harmony Week by the United Nations. First proposed in 2010 by HM King Abdullah of Jordan, this new event aims to promote harmony among all people regardless of their faith.
World Interfaith Harmony Week seeks to spread the message of tolerance among the followers of all the world's religions, faiths, and beliefs. It does this by promoting the common basis of "Love of God and Love of the Neighbour, or Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour." Its message invites everyone, excludes no one, and is purely voluntary. The objectives behind the World Interfaith Harmony Week, in the words of the author of the resolution, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, are:
- To co-ordinate and unite the efforts of all the interfaith groups doing positive work with one focused theme at one specific time annually, thereby increasing their collective momentum and eliminating redundancy.
- To harness and utilize the collective might of the world’s second-largest infrastructure (that of places of worship — the largest being that of education) specifically for peace and harmony in the world: inserting, as it were, the right "software" into the world’s religious "hardware."
- To permanently and regularly encourage the silent majority of preachers to declare themselves for peace and harmony and providing a ready-made vehicle for them to do so. Moreover, if preachers and teachers commit themselves on the record once a year to peace and harmony, this means that when the next inter-religious crisis or provocation occurs, they cannot then relapse into parochial fear and mistrust, and will be more likely to resist the winds of popular demagoguery.
World Interfaith Harmony Week is not widely acknowledged or celebrated in this country, since we have our own national Inter Faith Week, established by the Inter Faith Network UK at the end of November (as if I have to tell you that, faithful reader). And from my personal point of view, I really need another week like that, so soon after the draining efforts I put into that!
However: there are a number of activities and events taking place in the UK during this week, which can be found on the events calendar of Interfaith Harmony Week's website. Events in the UK, according to this calendar, are limited to some pretty high-level affaris in Birmingham, Cambridge, London and Woking. There doesn't seem much in the way of grass roots community support of the kind that characterises our own Inter Faith Week. I don't think that two people turning out on a cold Sunday evening in November to watch Keanau Reeves in Little Buddha at Phoenix Square in our Faiths Film Festival would cause much of a blip on World Interfaith Harmony Week's radar!
A variety of resources of interest and use to individuals and groups involved in inter-faith work are available through the World Interfaith Harmony Week website.