The first week in February is “World Interfaith Harmony Week”. It is an official project by the United Nations and was in the beginning initiated by the king of Jordan. When an authority like the United Nations call for a special week, they see that the goal of the week needs to be supported and promoted. To promote harmony between the different religions might be one of the most important projects for humanity in the 21st century and so it’s good to see that people all over the world are organizing and attending events to spread interfaith harmony in the world during the first week of February.
This year Interfaith Glasgow was organizing a series of events for World Interfaith Harmony Week. Those events were organized around three key elements of Interfaith Harmony: Cooperation, Dialogue and Friendship building. I myself could attend two of the three events and my feeling was that in the end all three key elements were happening at all of the events – but with different intensity.
At all of the events there was a good mixture of religious backgrounds among the participants and I hope that all participants could take with them a portion of interfaith harmony to spread the word in their personal surrounding – especially their faith communities. There were also representatives of local authorities at the events, like members of Glasgow City council and the Lord Provost of Glasgow. They seemed to be very willing to support interfaith harmony in Glasgow and I hope this will lead to an even greater support of interfaith work in this multicultural and multifaith city.
The first event of the series had the focus on Cooperation. The volunteers who are engaged in the Weekend Club projects with refugees and asylum seekers met to reflect on the importance of the interfaith element in their engagement. The group of volunteers, where refugees and asylum seekers from different countries are naturally part of, stressed how their faith motivated them to support those who are in need. They also said, that it was very important to make the participants experiencing the interfaith harmony, which is possible in Glasgow, because it helps the newly arrived people to feel welcome in Glasgow and Scotland. There were Christians, Muslims, Hindus and people who belong to no particular faith tradition at this event.
The second event was a dialogue event with the Scriptural Reasoning method. Christians, Jews and Muslims discussed about texts from their Holy Scriptures, that motivate them for interfaith dialogue. Thereby were communalities as well as differences found. From my point of view it was very important that the participants at this event really had a look into the relevant scriptures of the different religions and could show that interfaith harmony and dialogue is not only “a modern invention” but that there are at least references towards it in the different Holy Scriptures.
The third event, which I could not attend personally, because of a clash with another work activity, was a community in one of Glasgow Gurdwara’s where people from all Glaswegian faith traditions came together with the focus on Friendship building. People who attended the event told me, that there was a very good atmosphere at the meal and the participants of the different backgrounds took the opportunity to get in contact and engage with eachother. People of different traditions, coming together for a meal is maybe the strongest picture that comes to my mind when I think about World Interfaith Harmony and so in my opinion this was a very fitting event to be the finale of World Interfaith Harmony Week in Glasgow.
From my point of view it was very wisely by Interfaith Glasgow to choose the key issues of Cooperation, Dialogue and Friendship Building for their series of events, because they fit together very well. In an ideal case there is dialogue happening, as soon as people of different faith cooperate with each other and when dialogue is happening there are very good chances that friendship is built between the dialogue partners.
I hope that Interfaith Glasgow is continuing to work for Interfaith Harmony in their city and that they can encourage everyone who attends their events – be it during World Interfaith Harmony Week, Scottish Interfaith Week or during other times of the year – to work hard to spread harmony between the different religious groups in Glasgow, so that in a not to far future every week is a World Interfaith Harmony Week.
Some more impressions of World Interfaith Harmony Week can be found on Interfaith Glasgows facebook page.