World Interfaith Harmony Week is an annual event observed during the first week of February.
World Interfaith Harmony Week was proclaimed by the General Assembly in resolution A/RES/65/5 adopted on 20 October 2010. In the resolution, the General Assembly, points out that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace and establishes World Interfaith Harmony Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.
Recognizing the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people, the General Assembly encourages all States to spread the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week, on a voluntary basis and according to their own religious traditions or convictions.
At the core of all the faith systems and traditions is the recognition that we are all in this together and that we need to love and support one another to live in harmony and peace in an environmentally sustainable world.
Our world continues to be beset by conflict and intolerance with rising number of refugees and the internally displaced in a hostile and unwelcoming world around them. We are also unfortunately witnessing messages of hate spreading discord among people. The need for spiritual guidance has never been greater. It is imperative that we double our efforts to spread the message of good neighborliness based on our common humanity, a message shared by all faith traditions. The theme for the observance of the Interfaith Harmony Week for 2019 is therefore “Sustainable Development through Interfaith Harmony.”
Building Bridges Across Boundaries: The Path to Sustainable Development through Interfaith Harmony
6 February 2019, 6-8:30 p.m., United Nations, Conference Room 4
- Welcome: MCs Gordon Tapper (GTAH); and Dr. Judy Kuriansky (IAAP)
- Interfaith Prayer: Zoe Chang, Ordained Interfaith Minister (UNSRC)
- Opening Remarks: H.E. Ambassador Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations
- Musical Performance: St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church French Choir
- Video about World Interfaith Harmony Week
- Panel 1: Interfaith Harmony and the Global Goals: Part 1
- Reverend Michael Livingston, Senior Executive Minister, The Riverside Church: “The role of Interfaith Harmony in disaster recovery” (SDG13)
- Imam Shamsi Ali, Nusantara Foundation: “The role of Interfaith Harmony in eradicating poverty” (SDG1)
- Rabbi Alvin Kass, Senior Chaplain, New York Police Department: “The role of Interfaith Harmony in achieving gender equality” (SDG5)
- Venerable Yu Wang, BLIA: The Role of Education in Interfaith Harmony (SDG4).
- Musical Interlude: BLIA Choir
- Panel 2: Interfaith Harmony and the Global Goals: Part 2
- Reverend Dionne Boissière, UN Church Center: “The Role of Interfaith Harmony in achieving Health and Wellbeing for All” (SDG3)
- Swami Sarvapriyananda, Vedanta Center of New York: “The role of Interfaith Harmony in achieving peace and justice” (SDG16) - Dr Uma Mysorekar, Hindu Temple: “The Role of Interfaith Harmony in reducing inequalities” (SDG10)
- Reverend T.K. Nakagaki, Heiwa Peace and Reconciliation Foundation of New York: The role of Interfaith Harmony in achieving sustainable use of ecosystems and life on land (SDG15)
- Imam Jaiteh, Omar Mosque: “The role of Interfaith Harmony in ending hunger” (SDG1)
- Poetry Reading: Lynn Rosen, author of cultural/interfaith books, with spouse Taoufik Essadiki El Fillali
- Cantor Performance: Ruth Devorah , "Mi Sheoso Nisim" accompanied by Russell Daisey
- Q & A: Audience asks questions of any of the speakers who answer from their place
- Musical Performances: Russell Daisey and Dr. Judy Kuriansky, original song: “One in Faith” with the St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church French Choir
- All sing “One Love” by Bob Marley
- Call to Action: Mr. Felipe Queipo, Public Information Officer, Civil Society Unit, United Nations Department of Global Communications
Building Bridges Across Boundaries
Sustainable Development through Interfaith Harmony
The World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) conceived to promote a culture peace and nonviolence was first proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan at the United Nations in 2010. This was quickly adopted by the UN General Assembly resolution (A/RES/65/5) declaring the first week of February each year as World Interfaith Harmony week, calling on governments, institutions and civil society to observe it with various programs and initiatives that would promote the aim of the WIHW objectives.
The United African Congress and Give Them a Hand Foundation heeded the call by organizing an interfaith forum at the UN in 2012 and have continued to be involved every year ever since. They chose for their theme “The Diaspora-a Force for Positive Change” citing the ability of immigrant communities of diverse backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities in the United States to live side by side harmoniously bound together by shared values, love of God and love of neighbor. The interfaith forum gathered Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist faith leaders to talk about the teachings of their respective faiths as it relates to peace and harmony. The forum was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the United Nations.
They followed this up in 2013 by extending this gathering to include the faith and value systems of indigenous peoples by inviting an African spiritual leader who flew in from Guinea to participate. The core of his message was not only the need for people to live in peace but also the interdependence of humans with nature, hence the need to be good custodians of our environment. His inclusion garnered tremendous amount of interest among the diplomats at the UN and among the wide spectrum of invited guests.
For the 2014 WIHW the theme was “Tolerance, Reconciliation and Forgiveness” in honor of the late Nelson Mandela who led South Africa during its critical transition from Apartheid to a thriving multicultural all- inclusive democracy thus helping his country avoid what could have been a disastrous racial war. His personal example of forgiveness for the sake of peace among his people resonated throughout the world. The Mission of Indonesia to the UN joined the Mission of Ethiopia in cosponsoring the event.
In the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Sandy many homes were destroyed in and around New York City. The United African Congress and its partners organized hundreds of interfaith volunteers to help clean up flooded homes and deliver food to affected communities. Recognizing the power of prayer and interfaith collaboration, the theme for the 2015 WIHW program became “Interfaith Prayer, Healing, and Community Services in the Cause of Peace”. It was a prime example of people of different faiths, colors and ethnicities working together for the common good. The Missions to the UN of Ethiopia, Indonesia and Jamaica were cosponsors.
In 2016 the UN launched the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. It was also the year when one of the worst global health emergencies, the Ebola pandemic that devastated Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia was winding down after claiming more than 11000 lives. The United African Congress was among the first to call attention to the looming health emergency as early as Aug 2014 by holding an awareness raising forum at the UN followed by a concert held at the General Assembly Hall on March 2015.
Noting the interconnectedness of quest for peace and harmony with the global health emergencies such as the Ebola pandemic spreading across boundaries and with the 2030 UN agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, the theme for the 2016 WIHW was “Building Bridges across Boundaries”. To underscore the significance of the theme they invited Native American Spiritual leader, the ceremonial ritualist from the Mohawk Nation to participate with the other faith leaders. The spirituality that the Native American speaker imparted- through chants and dance- the need to protect ‘Mother Earth that nurtures and sustains us’ was warmly and widely embraced.
Video - Promoting Tolerance Through Music
World renowned conductor and UN Messenger of Peace Daniel Barenboim performed with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra at the Human Rights Chamber at the Palais des Nations in Geneva in October 2015. Composed of young musicians from Israel, Palestine and other Middle Eastern countries, the concert aims to promote understanding between Israelis and Palestinians and to pave the way for a peaceful solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- Culture of peace
- Combating defamation of religion
- Documents on interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace
- Astana Declaration adopted by the participants of the ministerial conference on “Common world: progress through diversity”, held in Kazakhstan on 17 October 2008 (A/63/512–S/2008/677)
- The Madrid Declaration issued by the World Conference on Dialogue (A/63/499)
- Phnom Penh Dialogue 2008 on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace and Harmony (A/62/949)
- Declaration for Promoting Dialogue and Mutual Understanding among Religions and Civilizations (A/62/553)
- Declaration of the Second Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions (A/61/378–S/2006/761)
- Bali Declaration on Building Interfaith Harmony within the International Community (A/60/254)
- Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations (A/RES/56/6)
- Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace (A/RES/53/243)
- Tehran Declaration on Dialogue among Civilizations (A/54/116)
- Declaration of Principles on Tolerance (A/51/201)
- Istanbul Appeal, approved by the participants in the Symposium on Tolerance held at Istanbul from 4 to 6 October 1995 (A/C.3/50/5)
- Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (A/RES/47/135)
- Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (A/RES/36/55)
- World Interfaith Harmony Week *
- United Religions Initiative (URI) Tool Card *
- World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (21 May)
- International Day for Tolerance (16 November)
- International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2010)
- UN Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (2001)
- Alliance of Civilizations
- High-level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace
* Links to external websites are provided for information only. The United Nations is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
- Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
- Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):
- Culture of Peace and Non-violence
- Cultural Diversity
- Fight against Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia
- Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity
General Assembly Press Releases:
- Adopts Consensus Resolution Proclaiming First Week of February Each Year “World Interfaith Harmony Week” - 20 October 2010
- Assembly Takes Up Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations - 18 October 2010
- Interfaith initiatives can ensure rich cultural diversity made world more secure, not less, Secretary-General tells Assembly Debate on Culture of Peace - 12 November 2008
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