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UPF-USA Commemorates World Interfaith Harmony Week

United States-2016-02-07-UPF-USA Commemorates World Interfaith Harmony Week

New York, USA—UPF-USA commemorated World Interfaith Harmony Week 2016 with events around the country. Recognizing that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue are key ingredients to a culture of peace, the UN General Assembly established the week as a way to promote harmony between people of all faiths.

UPF-Michigan held a simple program at the Breslin Student Event Center at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan. A video highlighting the work of UPF in the Middle East was shown. Representatives from the Muslim, Jewish and Sikh faiths spoke on the topic, “Creating Peace,” sharing their faiths’ perspective on peace.  Rev. Richard De Sena, UPF regional secretary general for North America, presented UPF’s principles of peace. The attendees were inspired by the work UPF does and its emphasis on family as an important aspect to peace.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, UPF together with the Salt Lake City Interfaith Roundtable, held their annual Interfaith Prayer Breakfast to commence the city's celebration of Interfaith Month and to connect it with the United Nations' World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Rev. Elias Koucos, chair of the Interfaith Roundtable and assistant priest at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Utah, welcomed the guests to the Hellenic Cultural Center, the venue of the event. Afterwards, Imam Muhammed Mehtar of the Khadeeja Mosque and Islamic Center offered a prayer. Before doing so, he emphasized that when we pray we should always give thanks to God first before we ask anything for ourselves.

The guest speaker, Ms. Jennifer Seelig, community relations director for Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s office, shared the mayor’s message on interfaith. She also shared how happy she was to be among other peoples of faith; although she is a Methodist, she developed a strong interest in Buddhism after travelling to Tibet.

One of the highlights of the event was the presentation of the Interfaith Roundtable’s Annual Awards. Several awards were given, including one to Mrs. Wendy Stovall, executive director of UPF-Utah, for her work for the Roundtable.

The event concluded with Rev. Koucos inviting everyone to write a message of peace and place it in a bowl. Rev. Susan Roberts, an Episcopalian, and Mr. Alan Bachman, a Jew, then offered prayers over the peace messages.

UPF-Las Vegas celebrated World Interfaith Harmony Week at its monthly forum, which was held at Las Vegas City Hall. Representatives from the Sikh, Muslim and Christian faiths spoke about the root causes of conflict, barriers to interfaith cooperation and possible solutions to overcoming these barriers. Among the panelists were Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Mr. Teji Malik, Mr. James Rigney and Rev. Jerushia McDonald Hylton.

One panelist felt that the wearing of traditional garb was a barrier to interfaith harmony and suggested that an event be organized where everyone is dressed the same. However, for this to happen, everyone would have to “come naked,” said Rev. Hylton. The importance of encouraging young people to become the next generation of leaders centered on God and of parents to be role models for their children was also discussed. In addition, the panelists considered what types of programs could be implemented to give families opportunities to engage with other cultures and foster a feeling of “One Family under God.”

Another topic the panelists focused on was the role of the interfaith community in the refugees’ crisis and homelessness. It was noted that Sikhs have a tradition of feeding whoever is hungry and that the State of Utah has learned how to work effectively with its homeless community.

The program also included the appointment of one new Ambassador for Peace, Mrs. Su Phelps, publisher of Veterans Reporter News.

Overall, these events testify to the extent of progress we can bring to our religious, social and interpersonal relationships. If we allow ourselves to listen, study and respect other faiths, we can create better outcomes as a community of faith and can raise our families as models for peace. An everlasting world of peace is very possible when our families are deeply rooted in these principles of international, interracial and interfaith dialogue and cooperation in which the central core is the heart of love and service.

Contributed by: Emiljun Rapada

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