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Interfaith Harmony Week Commemorated in Bratislava


Bratislava, Slovakia - UPF Slovakia inspired an interreligious event on February 10 in the chapel of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church in Bratislava. This was the first time that the World Interfaith Harmony Week took place in the Slovak capital; in 2011 the event took place in the town of Nitra. This year the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, the Old Catholic Church, and UPF-Slovakia functioned as organizers. Bishop Jan Hradil, head of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, had visited Korea some years ago and was willing to host the event in his facilities. He invited his own congregation as well as members of other faiths.

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During the panel discussion which took place in the Chapel hall, representatives of various faiths were able to explain their views on peacebuilding and answer questions from the audience. The six panelists represented Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism; each of them first briefly introduced his faith and spoke about his view on the cause of religious conflicts and possible solutions. Among the speakers was UPF-Slovakia Secretary General Milos Klas, who outlined the purpose of World Interfaith Harmony Week, described previous initiatives, and raised some important issues.

Bishop Hradil moderated the discussion and asked questions such as "How can we improve the interreligious dialogue in this country?" He also contributed some humorous comments. Among the 50 guests sitting in the church pews were members of Hare Krishna, the Unification Church, and other faiths; the participants were invited to contribute to the discussion with statements and questions.

At the conclusion, when Bishop Hradil prepared to say a prayer, one woman stood up and described a remarkable experience she had during a recent trip to Korea. She described a new temple in Seoul where statues of Confucius, Buddha, and Jesus stand at the entrance "with their arms stretched as if they want to hold each other." During a special ceremony, soil from the birthplaces of great religious founders was mixed with holy salt and distributed to international participants, who brought this precious gift to their homes making them centres of interreligious harmony. "Surely we shall see very soon wonderful and new levels of interreligious cooperation," she predicted.

The audience spontaneously applauded! Later, some guests commented that they were thrilled by that vision of unity among the religious founders. Two journalists became inspired to write articles about the World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Note: Jan Hus (c. 1369 - 1415) was a Czech religious thinker, philosopher, and reformer. Burned at the stake as a heretic, he was a precursor to the Protestant movement and many of his ideas anticipated those of Martin Luther.

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