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Overview of World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014 Observances in 23 Nations

An overview of observances of World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014 organized by UFP in 23 nations.


Abuja, Nigeria – A special assembly at the Peace Embassy focused on innovative approaches to promoting interreligious harmony for the national unity in Nigeria. Islamic and Christian educators and leaders discussed the recent religious conflicts in Nigeria and structures for promoting interreligious cooperation and harmony. The secretary general of UPF-Nigeria introduced UPF’s peace principles and the vision of one family under God. He proposed interreligious education in schools, a National Assembly Committee on Interreligious Affairs and a Government Ministry for Interreligious Affairs. In addition, he described his vision for a National Interreligious Worship Center that all religious groups in the country can use. “Through such facilities, we can understand each other well and grow beyond a focus on what divides us,” he said. The event was covered by national news media.

A village in Galilee, Israel - The Jerusalem Interfaith Forum for Peace, a project of UPF-Israel, held a forum at a church in the village of Kfar Kana. Twenty-five people, including religious leaders academics and peace activists, gathered to discuss the topic: "Sensitivity to the suffering of others." A Christian priest in Nazareth reported about his project of sending delegations that included by Jews and Arabs from Israel to visit Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland where millions of Jews died during World War II. He quoted Jesus’ words: "You should love your neighbor as you love yourself" and said that the trip was very challenging “Listening to the other side and trying to understand their feelings” was the key to the program’s success in building better relationships between the Jews and Arabs in Israel. The forum closed with reports about various Muslims and Jews in Israel who donated the organs of children who died in order to give new life to someone of the other faith.


Buenos Aires, Argentina - “To Establish Peace in Syria, the Middle East and the World” was the theme of a program at the Peace Embassy. There was a unification of intentions and invocations by representatives of different religious traditions: Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic and Christian (Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical). They poured water onto an olive tree as a way to commit themselves “to life and peace” after offering prayers, meditations and chants. A variety of emotions were blended during the event. Love and fraternal affection prevailed in the greetings and embraces of the closing ceremony.

São Paulo, Brazil – A program at the São Paulo City Hall included speakers from UPF, an interfaith movement, Hinduism, Buddhism and two religions with African origins. Each participant read a passage from their respective holy scriptures and then shared insights about the core values of a culture of peace. These messages helped the audience understand that the teaching of the different religions have most of the core values in common and thus could cooperate to build a better world.

Montreal, Canada – Ambassadors for Peace gathered to offer prayers and read from the sacred scriptures of different faiths. Representatives of the Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and Unification traditions poured water into a common bowl symbolizing their commitment to a common cause. The evening concluded with reflections on the scriptures that were read.

Bogota, Colombia – Interfaith leaders made visits to various religious communities beginning with the headquarters of an organization related to Hinduism. The program included meditations led by representatives of various religions. During the week there were visits to a mosque, a Hindu temple, the Interfaith Dialogue Office of the Catholic Bishops Conference and the Zen Buddhist Temple, with a closing event at the UPF Peace Embassy.

Quito, Ecuador - Interfaith leaders gathered at the Peace Embassy to exchange views about ways to cooperate to establish a peaceful world based on the practices of each religion. Participants included religious leaders from the Catholic, Evangelical and Episcopal churches and Hinduism.

United Nations Headquarters, New York – A World Interfaith Harmony Week celebration at the Trusteeship Council Chamber had the theme "A Vital Key for Peace and Development." UPF submitted photos of all of the World Interfaith Harmony Week activities worldwide in 2012 and 2013, and they were shown to the audience during the meeting.

Washington, DC, USA – A program at The Washington Times included readings from many religious traditions and several speakers, including the Ambassador of the Arab League to the United States, who was one of the speakers at the February International Leadership Conference in Korea.


Sydney, Australia – A university professor reported about his experiences at the December 2013 Middle East Peace Initiative conference in Jerusalem and the role that religion can play in contributing to peace and stability. He said that religion has often been seen as part of the problem, and for this reason, attempts at conflict resolution in places such as Palestine have been largely secular in approach. He suggested that it is becoming clear that transnational interfaith organizations such as UPF can make an important and unique contribution to solving conflicts.

Dhaka, Bangladesh - The Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue at the University of Dhaka organized an interreligious harmony rally on the university campus. The rally was inaugurated by the vice chancellor of the university. Speakers represented Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. Most of the people in Bangladesh are Muslims, and this is the first Muslim university to have a Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. It was founded by a professor based on the inspiration he gained from Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s teachings.

New Delhi, India - Dr. Karan Singh, President of the Indian Cultural Council for Cultural Relations, spoke at a program in January at the United Nations Information Centre in New Delhi. He encouraged everyone to have an “open mind and heart” towards other faith traditions. UPF President Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, spoke about the positive roles that religion can play and referred to proposals for an interreligious council at the UN. Dr. Chung Sik Yong spoke at a program in February at the UN Information Centre about “living for the sake of others” as the key to reconcile the divisions in the human family. He also spoke at World Interfaith Harmony Week programs organized by UPF in eastern India, near the Himalayan Mountains, and in the city of Chennai in South India, where a Campus Peace Club was launched.

Medan, Indonesia - Thirty people from various walks of life, including members of a government-based interfaith organization, educators, business and youth leaders, gathered at the UPF center to express their commitment to work for interreligious harmony and cooperation in this multi-religious and multi-cultural nation. Asian Leadership Team members delighted the audience by singing the Michael Jackson’s song “Heal the World.” Nine dignitaries who had contributed to UPF programs in Medan during 2013 were appointed Ambassadors for Peace. This was the first World Interfaith Harmony Assembly in Medan, Indonesia’s fourth largest city.

Tokyo, Japan - “Towards peace in the Middle East through harmonizing and cooperation among religions” was a topic of February's assembly of Ambassadors of Peace in Tokyo, organized by the UPF Japan with some 50 Ambassadors for Peace and young people attending.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Ambassadors for Peace, religious leaders and representatives of NGOs gathered at the Peace Embassy. After offering invocations, the representatives of various religions took part in an interfaith water ceremony representing sharing the wisdom, knowledge and commitment of their respective religious and faith traditions. This was followed by two speeches, one about rebuilding the family and the other about respect and dialogue as necessary ingredients for interfaith harmony.

Auckland, New Zealand - UPF invited leaders of diverse faith communities to the Peace Embassy to share readings from their holy scriptures on the theme of interfaith harmony. Then Ambassadors for Peace invited UPF organizers and other Ambassadors for peace to make a courtesy call to their places of worship. At each place, an Ambassador for Peace welcomed the delegation, introduced their spiritual leaders and elders, and gave an overview of their teaching and a brief history of their local activities. These visits to a mosque, Hindu temple, and Buddhist temple helped people understand each other more deeply.

Manila, Philippines – A program at the Peace Embassy was opened with prayers from many traditions (African Traditional Religion, Native American, Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Islam, Shinto, Sikhism, Sufism and Zoroastrianism) read by Ambassadors for Peace and bishops of Christian groups in the Philippines.


Vienna, Austria - The Vienna International Center (the United Nations headquarters in Austria) was the site of a conference on Feb. 7 on the theme of the “Role of Religions in Promoting a Culture of Peace.” Speakers included religious representatives, academics, journalists and leaders of NGOs. They addressed a variety of questions, including: Can academic studies contribute to religious dialogue? Do members of a religious group play key roles in society? As alternative forms of religion have come into existence, people are rethinking the role of religion.

Prague, Czech Republic – Fifty people from different denominations came to an interreligious conference at the Community of Christians which was organized by UPF-Czech Republic together with the Christian Community, the Association for Interreligious Dialogue and the Society of the Christians and Jews. The secretary general of UPF-Czech Republic said that interfaith dialogue needs to be integrated into peacebuilding processes and he described the proposal for an interfaith council at the UN.

Stuttgart, Germany - The UPF community center hosted a program that included music, an explanation of the vision behind the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week, and commentaries by representatives of various religions on the theme of “Love of God and love of your neighbor.” A Buddhist read the following prayer: “May all beings be happy, may all beings be free from suffering, may all beings cultivate true happiness, may all beings practice equanimity and dwell in peace.”

Chisinau, Moldova - Galata Middle School has a very active group of teachers who are Ambassadors for Peace, who in observance of the UN Interfaith Harmony Week invited families with children to a sport competition.

Oslo, Norway – The central mosque hosted a program that began with a candlelight ceremony by religious leaders and include words of greetings by ambassadors and representatives of civil society. Leaders from many organizations and religions, including from Iraq, Iran and the Israel embassy participated in the event on the theme of peace in Syria and the Middle East. Eight religious leaders lit a candle for peace, followed by reading a short text from their own tradition. The religions represented included Buddhism, Shia and Sunni Islam, Catholic and Protestant Christianity, Sikhism, Hinduism and Sufi. The secretary general of Religions for Peace and the director of the Norwegian Peace Council spoke.

Russia - Conferences, seminars and visits to places of worship of various faiths took place in Moscow, Novosibirsk, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.

London, UK – Youth UPF-UK organized a program at the House of Lords (the Upper House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom) that included music and presentations on interfaith harmony from the perspectives of young adults of different faiths. A Muslim youth emphasized youth involvement in interfaith dialogue because young people socialize with others all over the world and can become vulnerable to extremism and prejudice. “Young people must work hard to cultivate the concept of peaceful coexistence…. We can achieve a lot in empowering young people and building interfaith harmony in our communities." A Baroness (a woman member of the House of Lords) urged the youth to persevere in working for interfaith harmony, speaking even to those who don't want to listen. Several people reported about the lasting impact of participating in the December conference and Religious Youth Service project in Jerusalem.


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