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The United Religions Initiative global network celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) around the planet. The United Nations has designated February 1-7 of every year as a time to celebrate interfaith peace and cooperation worldwide. This year is the 10th anniversary of WIHW and URI is glad to be a part of it!
Note: Click the yellow arrows on either side of the photos to scroll through the slideshows below.
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Cooperation Circle: Global Compassion
Location: Santchou, Cameroon
Cameroon has been facing a high level of violent extremism with Boko Haram in the northern part, since more than six (6) years now. There have been violent problems with separatists (Anglophone crisis) in the Western part of the country for three (3) years now. These crises are generating many victims and displaced people. Most of the people perpetrating these attacks, killings and kidnappings are young people, and mostly not well-educated. The Cameroon government has been fighting them since then with guns, but with no good results. As Malala said, “With guns you can kill terrorists but with education you can kill terrorism.” We also believe in this useful quote.
Santchou, in the western part of the country, is hosting many displaced people from the Anglophone crisis who are affected by the separatists, terrorists and army killings in their villages. Due to this issue, we want to organize a gathering this 5th February during the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week to listen and learn from each other. The event will be both for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and the residents hosting them.
The IDPs are Muslims, Christians and Animists, who are facing some hate and exclusion in Santchou, being the host council, as some residents are stereotyping them by calling them Ambazonia (separatists) or terrorists (like Boko Haram). During the gathering, we will be highlighting those stereotypes. We will talk with each other, create friendships, and build a safe spirit of living lead by love and harmony between residents and IDPs. Moreover, we know that strong friendships lead to loving one's neighbors and exchanging values of peace. A size of 20-30 participants sitting in a circle and face-to-face talk will be the way to best express our goal of building peace in society.
Cooperation Circle: House of Hilkiah Foundation
Location: Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria
This event is titled "Many Faiths Yet Unbroken." To celebrate WIHW, House of Hilkiah Foundation will invite over 200 stakeholders and individuals from different religion and tribes to dress in their traditional attires to come say a prayer for peace and plant a peace pole. The Peace Pole will be a symbol to remind us that peace is what we need to develop our community. Learn more on our Facebook page.
Location: Mupombe Village, Blantyre, Malawi
As the effects of global warming and climate change are not "selecting who to get in touch with," every human life is in great danger. We, therefore, have the task of making people develop a political understanding about the importance of planting trees, as trees help manage greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. People do understand the other importances of trees, such as using them for construction, but we want to make the community and schoolchildren keep in mind trees' role in protecting the planet.
So, organized by Lunzu Cooperation Circle, we will be planting trees for WIHW 2020. Our task is to prepare a place where at least 300 tree seedlings shall be planted. We will also be taking care of the young trees that were planted in the previous rainy season of 2018-2019. The action of planting 300 trees shall take place on Tuesday, 28th January 2020 at Nasonjo Primary School at 9:00 AM. The surrounding village heads (Mpombe, Ndemanje, Kamwendo, Wotala and Maluwa), Mary's Meals Program Officials, Forestry Officials, teachers, learners and community members, regardless of their interests in terms of religion, tribe, political affiliations, literacy level and culture, shall all hold hands in making sure that the plan is done successfully.
Cooperation Circles: Lilongwe CC
Location: Lilongwe, Malawi
Lilongwe CC, with Chinsapo Youth Network and YASSED, will plant trees in a ceremony with the wildlife and natural resources conservation and rehabilitation trust in Lilongwe between 1st and 7th February 2020. Between 20 and 30 participants are expected.
Cooperation Circle: Nkhata Bay
Location: Nkhata Bay, Northern Malawi
HIV PREVENTION LESSONS: As Nkhata Bay Cooperation Circle (CC), we believe that HIV is real and it's affecting fellow young people across the world - thus, our country, Malawi, and our community, inclusive. Hence, it is important to provide capacity-building with vast knowledge on HIV prevention interventions so our community has the best knowledge of HIV prevention. The activity has impacted a number of young people in Mpamba, from almost five youth clubs. And, upon having almost as good membership from our CC as coaches in this activity, it was a great opportunity to gain more knowledge on HIV prevention and leadership on its cost. Besides gaining that, the community has also been empowered with quality knowledge through its youth members. These trained youth will be able to share more information with their youth clubs during their activities. A good partnership with the Peace Corps was done to get this organized, together with Nkhata Bay CC.
URI Regional Office: URI Western Africa Regional Office
Location: Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria
On Thursday, February 6, 2020, URI West Africa Regional Office, in partnership with three of our local Cooperation Circles in Nigeria - Women and Girl Child Rescue and Development Initiative, New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation, and Center for Applied Spiritual Science - hosted 123 young men and women from four Secondary Schools in Jos, Plateau State, for a one-day event to celebrate the 2020 United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week. The event was also attended by religious leaders, educators, community leaders, and parents. The guest speaker was His Grace Salika Dasa, Temple President of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISCKON) in Jos, Nigeria. See more photos in the Facebook post.
Cooperation Circle: Karonga Nthora
Location: Mzuzu, Karonga, Malawi
Tree planting: On the 1st of February 2020, Karonga Nthora organised a tree planting programme to combat the climatic change we are experiencing today globally. If we are to live in harmony with our Mother Earth, we need to treat her the way we treat our mothers; with love. In return, we will see how lovingly she treats us with what we receive from her every day. We are destroying her in everyday living in so many ways to benefit ourselves, but we fail to recover the wounds we have caused on our Mama Earth. Let's build her up by planting more trees and do whatever it can take to protect her. If you don't give maintenance to a leaking house, expect to sleep in a worse condition for the rest of your life. If we don't take care of our Mother Earth at any level, let's expect to face great problems - some of which we are facing today.
For WIHW, our Cooperation Circle helped the school learners and community to plant more trees - and still keep on planting. The challenge is, we didn't have enough tree seedlings to be planted in our whole community, as we do just buy them. The contributed money was not enough to buy more trees, but the tress we had were planted at the school with the school learners.
Let's hold hands to safeguard our Mother Planet Earth.
Cooperation Circle: Palki Peace Circle
Location: Kolkata State, West Bengal, India
We are feeling blessed by being able to feed about 6,000 people. We lighted candles with a midday meal of hotchpotch, potato curry, chutney, and sweets for the destitute, irrespective of their caste, creed, color, or religion. Our main focus was to enhance mutual understanding, harmony, and cooperation among different religious people. I always believe that it is very necessary to address local issues with real work that will help people and create a direct impact on society. It is to fulfil our desire to establish interfaith peace, and to promote brotherhood among all people, regardless of their faith. Read more.
Location: Five states across rural East India, including Purnea, Bihar
Rural India's Got Talent! It's an interfaith youth community meet in East India, where more than 2000 youth participants are expected to show their hidden talents to an audience. It's the best way to unite each other for peace and development by community-building with interfaith youth. See more on our Facebook page.
On February 1: More than 5 religions and 15 countries are in collaboration for this event. Cooperation Circles in Nepal, Tanzania, and Cameroon will unite together to make this conference greatly impactful. Exciting prizes and certificates, involving 40,000+ students from different universities, will be awarded. Environmentalists will hold dialogue meetings, and Zoom meetings will take place for remote participants. Overall, in this event, the entire world's interfaith communities will meet through Smiles4millions Foundation CC's platform.
Cooperation Circle: National Muslim Christian Dialogue Gujrat CC
Location: Gujrat, Pakistan
About 50 people gathered to openly describe the purpose of harmony, showing the public why it is needed.
Cooperation Circle: Karickam International Public School CC
Location: Kottarakkara, Kerala, India
We conducted an inter-school quiz based on holy scriptures on February 8. About 100 people participated. We have been conducting this kind of quiz for the past nine years during WIHW. It has gained much importance here as a WIHW event. Several schools are now participating. Several prizes and cash awards are given every year.
Cooperation Circle: Beyond SARHAD
Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
"Tour of Togetherness" -
This year in 2020, we have decided to engage the most vulnerable section of society in our interfaith Tour of Togetherness. The women who are selected for the tour were previously working as commercial sex workers and now are medical patients with HIV and cancer. We will be selecting those cases who really need some happiness, love and care at the twilight of their life.
Fifteen women will be taken on an interfaith tour and will be visiting a temple, a Muslim shrine, a church, a Fire Temple, and a Gurudwara. They will also have an interaction with the leaders at each place of worship. The objective is to let them believe that divine messages are all of mercy, compassion and togetherness.
These women have never before been to their worship places, due to the social stigma they carry.
To pray in a worship place is a taboo for them.
Hence, Beyond Sarhad decided to give them their place in the Almighty's world and let them experience the interfaith spirit for the first time in their life. The impact will be in the hearts of these less fortunate sisters and daughters who will cherish this moment of togetherness.
Cooperation Circle: Angel Peace Foundation
Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
On February 3, we celebrated WIHW. This activity has influenced us a lot. From this activity we learned, "What about peace and goodwill in Hinduism and Christianity?"
In Christianity - The word "peace" in the Bible, from the Greek word (eireinei), refers to a mental attitude of tranquility based on a relationship with God in the Christian Way of Life. It is a word which describes the result of a person's correct response to God's Grace. The Bible uses "peace" in two ways. There is personal peace with God, which comes when a person accepts Jesus Christ as Savior. Then, there is the peace of God which is available on a daily basis as the believer participates in the Christian way of life according to the Plan of God. So, where you find peace mentioned in the Bible it refers either to the reconciliation of a Christian in salvation, as in Eph. 2:14,17, or to the mental attitude found in the believers.
In Hinduism - Peace is an essential part of Hinduism. By examining the core teachings of Hinduism, it is possible to demonstrate the way Hinduism guides individuals in accomplishing inner peace, and also the way in which this religious tradition contributes to world peace through individuals, and organizations working for peace. The Bhagavad Gita is considered to be one of the most important of the Hindu sacred texts. This document contains sacred scriptures, and helps adherents to attain a peaceful and harmonious existence. It contains the core teachings, and serves to instruct a Hindu on the correct way to go about their life, taking into account the different castes. It advocates the concepts of Dharma, Karma, reincarnation, and Moksha, and the importance of these. Essentially, the Bhagavad Gita is the Hindu’s key to achieving peace.
Location: Den Haag, Netherlands
Bart ten Broek, of two URI member groups (Stichting Interreligieus Beraad Segbroek and URI Netherlands CC), took part in an interfaith tour for the first day of World Interfaith Harmony Week. (Photos by Henk van Bentem). The interfaith group visited multiple places of worship to learn about different faith traditions, including Shri Sanatan Dharm Dew Mandir, the St. Agnes Church, and the Anware Mustafa mosque.
See more photos.
Cooperation Circle: URI CC Lienz/Austria
Location: Lienz, Austria
Since the beginning of this UN Initiative (WIHW) in 2010, our interreligious team in Lienz, Austria - Bildung bringt Frieden (meaning "Education brings Peace" - has organized with great joy different projects to foster a good relationship between people from different faith traditions. Pictures can be seen on our website until 2012, at which point we became a URI Cooperation Circle and photos can be seen on our URI page. This year, we would like to invite people in Austria, people worldwide, and you to join "ONE PRAYER FOR ALL" every time someone hears any church bell, muezzin, temple bell, spirit drum.... or sees a sacred site from any religion:
"Dear God, Allah, Great Spirit, Holy Father.... (or the name you choose)
Please bless and strenghten my thoughts, my heart and my hands, so that I may create more Heaven on Earth. Thank you."
Or in short form:
"May there be Heaven on Earth through me."
We will promote this prayer through media, Facebook, and mailings and use it to share the URI Preamble too. It would be wonderful, if you like the idea, to spread it in your region.
I want to remind you of our other useful gift for interreligious work: "The Little Owl". It is a story about the question, "who created everything?" in 45 languages and videos. We have also worked to make the Heaven on Earth Wiki, a collection of people who work for a good future of the planet.
With best wishes for a blessed WIHW,
Elisabeth Ziegler-Duregger and the members of our Cooperation Circle.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Middle East and North Africa
Cooperation Circle: Charter for Compassion – Yemen
Location: Sana'a, Yemen
In Yemen, having an autistic child is considered shameful in society. So families try to hide their situation by resorting to locking their autistic children in the house and not allowing them to go out to the street. We have been working on an advocacy campaign for children with autism in Yemen since December 2017. This year, we are holding a workshop to educate parents about how to nurture autistic children so that they can improve.
Cooperation Circle: The Abrahamic Reunion CC
Location: Bethlehem, Palestine, Israel
Interfaith Christmas Celebration in Bethlehem: "This is the second Chrismas event for the second year in a row that I have organized. The event was very impressive and it contained different religions, nationalities and nationalities. Everyone shared their views and ideas in order to achieve peace through interfaith dialogue." Written and organized by Mohamad Jamous, AR Palestinian Director. Over 100 people attended.
Cooperation Circle: Jordanian Association for Orphans & Widows Care CC
Location: Mafraq, Jordan
Jordanian Association for Orphans & Widows Care (JAOWC), a URI member group in Jordan, celebrated World Interfaith Harmony Week by organizing a full day of entertainment and gift-giving for orphans and refugee children on 1st January 2020. The day started with an interactive theatre play about “Interfaith Tolerance,” presenting a documentary film about tolerance and respecting differences. Then we had face painting and a question-and-answer game. The children had a healthy lunch and received valued gifts.
The URI Multiregion
Cooperation Circles: Unity Earth, EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East Cooperation Circle
Location: The Jordan River Valley
URI is partnering with Unity Earth and EcoPeace Middle East for the celebration of the 2020 World Interfaith Harmony Week in the Middle East. The event will take place from 2-7 February 2020 under the theme of Holy Land, Living Water. The celebration will bring around 70-100 international delegates for the series of week-long events. The delegates will be comprised of religious, Indigenous and spiritual leaders, ecological advocates, diplomats, artists, social entrepreneurs, leading academics and media. Approximately 25 Palestinian, 25 Jordanian and 25 Israeli delegates will join the international delegates.
Cooperation Circle: United Religions Initiative at the United Nations
Location: New York, NY, USA
There will be an Interfaith Service for World Interfaith Harmony Week in New York. About 80 participants are expected. This Interfaith Service will be at the end of a full-day workshop at the UN Church Center. The service will be open to the public at the Tillman Chapel for the UN and begin with music at 4:15 PM and end by 5 PM.
Cooperation Circle: Women's Interfaith Network of the URI (WIN-URI)
Location: Lake Mulshi, Nandivali, Maharashtra, India
We celebrated World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) at KARE, a beautiful Ayurveda Yoga center at Lake Mulshi, India. Guests gathered in the Yoga Hall from France, Germany, Chile, India, New Zealand, Poland, Casablanca, Israel, London, and Sudan. Faith expressions included Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Catholic, as well as spiritual seekers, followers of nature, deep psychology, interfaith and people of no religion. There were 25 people ranging from 2 - 80 years old.
Cooperation Circle: Saudis for Peace
Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Saudis for Peace hosted the first celebration of WIHW in Saudi Arabian history. Seventy people attended the event, and we received a lot of good reviews about the event from the community. The speakers for the event were from different backgrounds, cities and beliefs. Saudis for Peace will continue to teach about interfaith cooperation, coexistence, and tolerance in Saudi Arabian communities by hosting 3 events a month.
URI Region: The URI Multiregion
Event title: Poetry reading: Harmony in Verses. The URI Multiregion hosted a Zoom call where members could enjoy poetry reading delivered by their fellow brothers and sisters, and share their selected verses with everyone attending the call.
Location: Boca Raton, Florida, USA
The event is titled "Transforming Bigotry and Hate: From Awareness to Action." Law enforcement reports that hate crime incidents in the US have increased 30% since 2015, and identifies more than 1,000 hate groups in the US; 75 of those are in Florida alone. If these statistics concern you, you will want to join us for this all-day conference that will help us understand root causes of hatred and bigotry and explore ways to create positive change. See more conference agenda details or view the Eventbrite page or Facebook event page. We expect about 200 participants and the workshops will result in a personal or community action plan.
Cooperation Circle: The Interfaith Center at Miami University
Location: Oxford, Ohio
About 100 people attended "Building Sacred Connections: Understanding How Implicit Biases Can Get in the Way of Building Meaningful Relationships." The Keynote Speaker is Priya D. Klocek, President & CEO, Consultant On The Go LLC. This 60-minute interactive session focuses on: The impact of our culture on how we see the world. How we can identify and manage our unconscious bias/blind spots? Tools and techniques on how we can mitigate unconscious bias are shared during the session. During World Interfaith Harmony Week, it is important for the Interfaith Center, Miami University, and the greater Oxford community to address religious biases which perpetuate misconceptions and create unsafe environments within our community. We hope that through this program, and similar initiatives by TIC, Miami University and Butler County will become a more welcoming place for people of all diverse religious, spiritual and secular traditions. See the Facebook page.
**This is an interactive live stream event!!** Our Oxford program will be lived streamed to a second location in Hamilton, Ohio, courtesy of a grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation. The live stream can also be accessed globally through a Zoom link which will be provided.
Location: New York, NY, USA
The 10th Annual World InterFaith Harmony Assembly of Central New York will gather for a special event on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, with a reception to follow. In recognition of our tenth anniversary, we have chosen the theme: “Growing Together: Celebrating Ten Years of InterFaith Harmony.”
Cooperation Circle: University of Rochester Interfaith Chapel
Location: Rochester, New York, USA
Religion and Climate Change: The Students' Association for Interfaith Cooperation is sponsoring an interfaith cafe for students of various religious backgrounds, and those of no religious background, to talk about the pressing issue of climate change. They will focus specifically on what various religious denominations and traditions are doing to promote care for the environment and sustainability, as well as brainstorm ways they can be advocates for climate justice. The "Religion and Science Interfaith Cafe" will be held on February 4 from 7-8 PM. About fifteen people are expected.
Cooperation Circle: University of Rochester Interfaith Chapel
Location: Rochester, New York, USA
World Interfaith Harmony Week Sand Mandala: An additional 50-70 people are expected on February 7, when local artist The Rev. Katie Jo Suddaby, who is trained in the creation of sand mandalas, having studied with monks in Nepal, will create a beautiful sand mandala incorporating themes of peace and reverence for the earth and its creatures. The sand mandala is created in the main lounge of the student commons building on campus. There are practice stations for students to learn how to help create the sand mandala and then students will help the artist create the mandala. At the end of the day, a destruction ceremony will be enacted. The event runs from 11 AM until 3 PM. See more on the Facebook page.
Cooperation Circle: LOTUS Center for All Faiths
Location: Buckingham, VA, USA
Interfaith Harmony Week Celebration with Swami Jyotirmayananda & Casey Devi: Monday, February 3, 7:30 pm at Sivananda Satsang Hall. There will be an Interfaith PowerPoint presentation by Swami Jyoti Ma; chanting with Casey Devi; and personal sharings by audience participants. There will also be a lunchtime Interfaith PowerPoint presentation by Swami Jyoti Ma; Chanting with Casey Devi; and personal sharings by audience participants.
Southeast Asia and the Pacific
Cooperation Circle: Pakigdait, Inc. CC
Location: Tangcal, Lanao Del Norte, The Philippines
In connection of the celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which is observed every first week of February, we held an interfaith listening session for Bangsamoro women and youth. It was hosted by the United Religions Initiative in coordination with the Local Government Unit of Tangcal, Lanao Del Norte, Philippines, in partnership with the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines and with the facilitation of Pakigdait Inc., a URI member group.
On February 5, 2020, Pakigdait, Inc. conducted a Listening Session for Women and Youth. Rest assured that this will not be the last engagement, but this is the starting point of advancing the path to peace, especially in the six municipalities of the Bangsamoro Area of Lanao Del Norte, living outside Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Indeed, their voice really matters. At our end, as an Interfaith Grassroots Peace-building Organization, we will do our best to package the concerns and sentiments of the youth and women living outside BARMM and humbly present it to the Provincial Local Government of Lanao Del Norte and the BARMM Government. Together, we can "Talk and Walk for Peace."
See more photos in the Facebook post.
Cooperation Circle: Minority Rights Organization - MIRO CC
Location: Pursat Province, Cambodia
This interfaith event will take place in Pursat Province, a very remote area of Cambodia where a minority community lives. It is a floating village where there are many poor and displaced people settling to live. The hygiene and sanitation conditions there are really bad. There are Muslim, Vietnamese, and Khmer people living together. Children in particular suffer there, getting a poor education. So this will be the first such event that has ever happened in this village. The need for interfaith cooperation is great. Religious leaders play a vital role in this village. Sothearat Seoung, URI Regional Coordinator for the region, will work with religious leaders and facilitate them to working together to organize WIHW. This event will be a very important first step to stimulate interfaith cooperation in the community. About 50 to 100 participants are expected.