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World Interfaith Harmony Week Observed at a Forum in Norway

Oslo, Norway - Members of the clergy from major religions were among approximately 70 people who attended a forum entitled “Religion and Human Rights” on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015.

The forum, held to commemorate UN World Interfaith Harmony Week, was organized by UPF-Norway together with a local Lutheran church, which also provided the setting for the event.

Religious leaders from Shia Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sunni Islam and the Lutheran Church attended. A Catholic vicar who had agreed to come was forced to stay home due to sickness.

UPF-Norway Secretary General Steinar Murud gave the welcoming remarks. He talked about UPF Founder Dr. Sun Myung Moon’s extensive efforts toward interreligious harmony and quoted from Dr. Moon’s address to the First Assembly of the World’s Religions, held in 1985:

As far as I know, God is not sectarian. He is not obsessed with minor details of doctrine. … In God’s parental heart and His great love, there is no discrimination based on color or nationality. There are no barriers between countries or cultural traditions, between East and West, North and South. Today God is trying to embrace the whole of humankind as His children. Through interreligious dialogue and harmony we should realize one ideal world of peace, which is God’s purpose of creation and the common ideal of humankind.

Following the welcoming remarks there was a “candle lighting ceremony for peace” in which excerpts from the scriptures of each of the religions were read aloud as candles were lit.

The participants of the ceremony were: Buddhist Bhante Manirathanas; Srigandarajah Termelindjem from the Norway Hindu Cultural Center; Sheikh Mahmood Jalloul, imam of the Shia mosque Tauheed Islamic Center; Lehmber Singh, chairman of the Sikh temple at Alnabru; Imam Mehboob Ur Rehman from Sunni mosque Islamic Cultural Center; and Lutheran Pastor Lars Martin Dahl of the Old Town and Greenland congregation.

A panel of three speakers followed the candle lighting ceremony.

Hatef Mokhtar, chief editor of the online newspaper The Oslo Times, stated that human rights should be integrated into all religions.

Sheikh Mahmood Jalloul, the imam of the Shia mosque Tauheed Islamic Center, spoke of the rights of freedom, respect and justice. With a quotation from the Quran, “There is no compulsion in religion,” he said that all people should live in freedom.

Lutheran Pastor Lars Martin Dahl, the evening’s host, said that blasphemy is not only insulting God. An act of violating God’s principles, in the form of human rights, also can be termed blasphemy.

A session for questions and comments gave the audience a chance to be involved in the evening’s theme. Victoria Nordhagen closed the formal program with a performance of the song "Let There Be Peace on Earth," whose final words are "and let it begin with me"—a fitting reminder that peace begins with each of us.

The event was covered by the Iraqi Media Office in Norway, by the Indian newspaper Scandinavia Samachar and by the online newspaper The Oslo Times.

Photographs by Mandeep Punian

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