United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week 2016 at the UPF Embassy

By Marcelle Mansour
I attended the seminar of United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week 2016, which was hosted by the Universal Peace Federation Australia (UPF) , during the Ambassadors for Peace bimonthly meeting at the Oceania embassy in Sydney, on Monday 1st February of this year, with its slogan of “Interfaith in Action: Working Together for the Common Goods”.
 As we know, the United Nations has designated the first week of February of every year to be the World Interfaith Harmony Week. It is worthwhile to mention here a bit of history - for the sake of knowledge – that the World Interfaith Harmony Week has been proposed between religions for the first time in the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by His Majesty King Abdullah II, King Jordan. Then the United Nations decided unanimously on October 20, 2010 to be celebrated since then onwards in the first week of February, that is (1-7 Feb) to be known as “World Interfaith Harmony Week”. The aim is to simply initiate mutual understanding and effective dialogue between religions as a way to promote harmony among all people regardless of their religion.  It began harbingers in 2007, where Christians and Muslims leaders were called on to engage in the primary two common core religious commandments dialogue; the love of God and love of neighbor, for These commandments are the hub of the three large monotheistic religions without prejudice to any of their own religious principles. Thus providing a solid foundation for joint action on love and cooperation among people of goodwill and promote a message of interfaith harmony in churches and mosques around the world, and synagogues and other places of worship, on a voluntary basis in accordance with the religious traditions of their own cultures. This will hopefully encourage and help these groups to be aware of each other, and promote the movement of construction through mutual relations that far outweigh their differences, thus providing a strong dose of peace and harmony in their communities.
I would like to express the extent of my admiration to all the speakers who addressed the importance of  the topic that began with the UPF president Greg Stone’s words – with the UPF Introductory Video - where he said: "Our presence here as ambassadors for peace, we come from all over the world in order that we encourage one family of all religions under one God, to seek together towards goodness and unity and break down barriers, for all religions should work together to address the issue of conflict and achieve peace in the world.
Dr. Greg Johns, Vice Director of Soak Gukkai Internatioanl Australia and manager of their Peace, Culture and Education portfolio, delivered a significant speech explaining the vital role of the Buddhist religion in peacemaking, and responsibility entrusted to us towards each other and towards humanity as a whole, that go beyond the extremism towards our interests and work to help others, particularly that depression issue is a big problem in this country and other countries. Buddhism has long been celebrated as a religion of peace and non-violence always aspiring for the need of achieving higher humanism in respecting individuals and people through the symphony of heart to heart dialogue that share the suffering of others through connecting together and bringing friendship respect. This followed by the speech of guest speaker Ms Anne Lanyon, from the Columban Mission Institute Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice and the Faith Ecology Network, where she spoke about the urgent goals in regards to the religious traditions of mutual engagement of the environment, its defense and protection.
Ms Aila Wilitts, MC made the welcoming remarks with her calming presentation and the event was closed with peaceful musical presentation.
I attended the bimonthly meeting as usual, and liked the subject and its content. I was also surprised with the attendance of the high number of audience including the Ambassadors of Peace who have come from various backgrounds except of the Arabic ones.  The fact of the matter is that we, the Australian Middle Eastern are the ones who really with the most in need of this kind of knowledge for many reasons. For I believe that our presence is beneficial to encourage and promote this kind of topics and functions.
Undoubtedly, mutual understanding and dialogue among all religions and beliefs constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace as a way to promote harmony and cooperation among all people irrespective of races and religions, especially we live in the midst of political and religious crises, intolerance, terrorism, social, humanitarian troubled and other problems in this puzzling era. It is important to participate in the multiple aspects of the broader discussion, for the convergence in the exchange of views, and dissolving dissonance in different views, may help to promote the method of approach to understanding and respect between religions and generations, and to accept the ‘other’.  This will work on healing the wounds of violence, and also healing the rift between religious and sectarian groups. It will certainly work to challenge the risk of cultural conflicts, to change our lives for the better, and to build peace in the world.



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