World Interfaith Harmony Week promotes a global initiative that transcends tradition, religion, culture, and faith. Typically occurring during the first week of February each year, the event was developed as a resolution by the United Nations to promote peace between all people regardless of their faith.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution in October 2010, a month after a proposal by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan encouraged states to support messages of interfaith harmony, goodwill, and love regardless of where and how one worships. Those familiar with World Interfaith Harmony Week attribute much of its growth and success to King Abdullah II. His initial plan to unite two faiths soon extended his call beyond Muslim and Christian communities to include people of all beliefs, as well as those with no set religious persuasion.
The event is recognized and celebrated the first week in February, but many activities begin in mid-January with some continuing through the end of February and beyond. Although the week had its official start in 2010, the mindset of the event began to surface in the late 1990s. In 1998, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke at an event called the “United Nations Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations”:
“I see…dialogue as a chance for people of different cultures and traditions to get to know each other better, whether they live on opposite sides of the world or on the same street.”
Just about every year since, the UN has declared new resolutions that each emphasizes a global agenda to incite meaningful conversations about peace, non-violence, and elimination of discrimination. A resolution in 2010 finally confirmed definitive dates to recognize and celebrate the mission.
Pioneering efforts combined with an aggressive push for multi-faith discussions created the Common Word Initiative in 2007, which called for Muslims and Christians to engage in a dialogue rooted in the Ten Commandments. The Common Word Initiative formed the backbone of World Interfaith Harmony Week.
Today, World Interfaith Harmony Week provides a regular and permanent vehicle for churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship and community to meet and openly share thoughts according to their own traditions or religious convictions. The planned activities are as diverse as the locations themselves. From Brazil to Bosnia and Arlington to Atlanta, groups all over the world and across the country will establish and host events to recognize World Interfaith Harmony Week.
A group in Omaha, Nebraska will hold a Speed Dialogue with fast-paced conversations about beliefs and identities. In Columbia, South Carolina, a group has set up a colorful temporary village made up of many faiths and traditions for people to interact and connect peacefully. In Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, two full days of music, dialogue, and exhibitions are scheduled.
As more institutions and organizations host events like these, World Interfaith Harmony Week will soon become a familiar event for everyone around the world to recognize and celebrate.
Read further to see Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message regarding World Interfaith Harmony Week 2013.