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2 Feb, 2013

U.N. Marks Annual Inter-Faith Week, Calls On All Faiths To Unite For Common Good


UNITED NATIONS, (UN News Centre), Feb  1 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the followers of all faiths to work together to achieve common goals for peace, prosperity and physical and spiritual well-being, as he kicked off an annual event known as World Interfaith Harmony Week.

“We live in times of turmoil and transformation – economic, environmental, demographic and political. These transitions bring both hope and uncertainty. Our job is to ensure that hope wins, and our task will be made easier if the followers of all faiths collaborate in common cause,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the week.

“Let us never forget that what divides us is minuscule compared with what unites us. Working together, we can achieve all our goals for peace, prosperity and physical and spiritual well-being.”

World Interfaith Harmony Week is observed during the first week of February, as decided by the General Assembly, which established the event in 2010 as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.

The Assembly encouraged all States, during the week, to support the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship, among other steps.

“For billions of people around the world, faith is an essential foundation of life,” Mr. Ban noted. “It provides strength in times of difficulty and an important sense of community. The vast majority of people of faith live in harmony with their neighbours, whatever their creed, but each religion also harbours a strident minority prepared to assert fundamentalist doctrines through bigotry and extreme violence.

“These acts are an affront to the heritage and teachings of all major religions,” he stated, adding that they also contravene the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms the right of all to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

“It is imperative that the moderate majority is empowered to stand firm against the forces of extremism. But, this can only be achieved through strong leadership,” he added.

The Secretary-General also cited the need to reach out to young people with a message of hope. “Too often marginalized, jobless and facing a future of uncertainty, youth can be easy prey for fanatics offering a sense of cause and community. We need to expose the invalidity of this lure and offer a compelling alternative.”

He also noted that next month at its forum in Vienna, the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) will continue its efforts to unite faiths and cultures. “Whether on the world stage or in their communities, religious and cultural leaders have a responsibility to speak the language of tolerance and respect. This is a central message of World Interfaith Harmony Week,” said Mr. Ban.

The Alliance of Civilizations was set up in 2005, at the initiative of Spain and Turkey, under UN auspices, to improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions, and to help counter the forces that fuel polarization and extremism.

Working in partnership with governments, international and regional organizations, civil society groups, foundations, and the private sector, the Alliance is supporting a range of projects and initiatives aimed at building bridges among a diversity of cultures and communities.

About the World Interfaith Harmony Week

The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by King Abdullah II of Jordan. Just under a month later, on October 20, 2010, it was unanimously adopted by the UN and henceforth the first week of February will be observed as a World Interfaith Harmony Week.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of The Common Word initiative. This initiative, which started in 2007, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments; Love of God, and Love of the Neighbour, without nevertheless compromising any of their own religious tenets. The Two commandments are at the heart of the three Monotheistic religions and therefore provide the most solid theological ground possible.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week extends the Two Commandments by adding ‘Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbour’. This formula includes all people of goodwill. It includes those of other faiths, and those with no faith.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week provides a platform—one week in a year—when all interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill can show the world what a powerful movement they are. The thousands of events organized by these groups often go unnoticed not only by the general public, but also by other groups themselves. This week will allow for these groups to become aware of each other and strengthen the movement by building ties and avoiding duplicating each others’ efforts.

With over 300 Letters of Support, and 200 registered events in over 40 countries, all organized in little over 3 months, the first World Interfaith Harmony Week was a success. The second year was an even greater success with over 300 events held worldwide.

It is hoped that this initiative will provide a focal point from which all people of goodwill can recognize that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have, and thus provide a strong dosage of peace and harmony to their communities.


The Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan is delighted to announce the establishment of three WIHW Prizes. A prize will be given to each of the three best events or texts organized during the UN WIHW (first week of February) which best promote the goals of the WIHW.

The prizes will be:

First –              $25,000 and a gold medal
Second –         $15,000 and a silver medal
Third –            $5,000 and a bronze medal

The prizes will be awarded to those events or texts that are judged to have been most successful in promoting interfaith harmony, and impacting religious understanding.

Further details, please click here.