It seems a little ironic to be talking about finding common ground between religions after all the turmoil in the United States over President Trump’s immigration ban. Let’s put politics aside and discuss World Interfaith Harmony Week, a UN resolution first proposed in 2010, and now celebrated the first week in February every year.
It was King Abdullah II of Jordan who first proposed the idea of a World Interfaith Harmony Week. During his speech, he said, “It is [also] essential to resist forces of division that spread misunderstanding and mistrust especially among peoples of different religions. The fact is, humanity everywhere is bound together, not only by mutual interests, but by shared commandments to love God and neighbour; to love the good and neighbour…we are proposing is a special week, during which the world’s people, in their own places of worship, could express the teachings of their own faith about tolerance, respect for the other and peace. I hope this resolution will have your support.”
The resolution was supported by 29 co-sponsors, including the countries of Libya, Liberia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Yemen. Many of the key Middle East countries were in support of this Interfaith Harmony Week. One month later, the resolution passed unanimously. It would be celebrated during the first week of February in 2011 for the first time.
One key element recognized by the resolution is that it: “(e)ncourages all States to support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week based on Love of God and Love of the Neighbour, or based on Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions.”
King Abdullah is the custodian of the holy sites of both Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem. Although he is a direct descendent of the prophet Muhammad, the King has always tried to promote peace and interfaith dialogue. As such, he is regarded as one of the most influential Muslims around the world. Jerusalem is home to many holy places, not just in Islam and Christian faiths, but also to the Jewish traditions. King Abdullah is supportive of other faiths, and he demonstrates this support. Last year, he gave over $4 million to renovate the tomb of Christ, which has not been touched since 1947.
Christians, Jews and Muslims have two key tenets that are common to all three faiths:
- Love of God
- Love of neighbors
We don’t have to compromise other elements of our faith to say that, first and foremost, there is a love of God and neighbors. Even non-monotheistic faiths can agree to a love of neighbors as being a key commandment of their beliefs. Under the Common Ground Project, a group of scholars came together to find commonalities of faiths. One of the books that came out of this project is “Common Ground between Islam and Buddhism,” with insights from the Dalia Lama and HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan.
Sami Yusuf, an English singer and songwriter who was born in Iran, wrote the popular “The Gift of Love” as an interfaith anthem for this week. Take some time to watch it on YouTube, because it is a beautiful song filmed in Jordan and Jerusalem.
Check out World Interfaith Harmony Week on social media to find out what’s happening around the world to bring people together and create dialogue. No matter what happens in the United States political arena, it’s going to be important to understand the faiths of others. We can all start during the first week in February to find common ground.