01 February, 2013

World Interfaith Harmony Week

“Once we bring people together, we find that there is so much commonality in approaches. There are differences in texts, and rituals may be different, but the core is similar. In talking about conflict, all agree that healing has religious roots. They agree that violence and suffering are not supported by any religion. That brings the discourse on peace to the fore. The idea is not to bury differences, but to agree on common principles. Then the groups agree to work with their different capacities. They work so that differences can become strengths”.
Jacqueline Ogega Director, Global Women of Faith, Religions for Peace.

February 1st - 7th is World Interfaith Harmony Week. To observe this week, Just Salvos asked three individuals to share their thoughts on interfaith harmony. We hope you are challenged and encouraged by the following viewpoints.

I strongly believe that interfaith harmony is a critical task for all religions in the 21st century. It’s not just about moving beyond the terrible history of interreligious persecution and bloodshed – though we desperately need to do that. It’s also more than just being politically correct or promoting tolerance. It’s fundamentally about acknowledging that God is bigger than any of us can grasp, even within the best of our religious systems. Our hold on the sacred, on revelation, on truth, is always provisional. We take hold of it in humility and with all the faith we can muster, like catching water in a net. With this attitude, we can learn from other traditions without compromising our own and grow in the spirit of love and compassion that is common to all the major faiths.
- Captain Jason Davies-Kildea

There is a particular anxiety and fear that accompanies the unknown – your first day in new employment, visiting another country for the first time, being confronted by another faith tradition or belief system. I believe interfaith harmony is moving past the fear and seeking mutual respect and understanding. As Christians, we have a mandate to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27), this includes those who worship another as their god. Interfaith harmony means we acknowledge that everyone is made in the image of God and treat them accordingly – with love and grace. Interfaith harmony allows us to actively engage in the lives of those who hold different belief systems and encourages us to be informed; we might just find how we can work together to bring the Kingdom of God.
- Amanda Merrett

I was blessed to part of an outpouring of that sentiment in the week following the horrific massacre at Port Arthur in Tasmania. An interfaith service was held in the city of Hobart, spilling onto the streets with loud speakers. People stood side by side, some comforting others, some silent, others weeping softly alone, yet not alone, as different interfaith elements were read and expressed from the leaders of the service. The expressions were those of love from God and need for one another. Mutual respect was evident as Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians received from God and others. Though this occasion was not stimulated by religious conflict, I discovered that so much healing came from the community of those who came together and who wanted to pray. The need for prayer was primary. This became the situation even later as Salvation Army chaplains knelt with those who came to honour their loved ones at the site of the killings. No matter what the background of the person, I heard of comfort as people were helped to pray and remember. There were open entry points to faith and its expression. There is much we have in common with others and we do well to listen, learn and share as we explore our common humanity. This is the value of interfaith harmony.
- Marion Weymouth

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