On October 13, 2007, a very crucial document appeared on the world religious scene. Muslim leaders sent an open letter to Christian leaders initiating a dialogue that would change the religious landscape forever. The Common Word Initiative explores the Two Commandments by which God and Neighbor are loved revealing the oneness of these two core commands. The Golden Rule, of course, is found as an essential teaching of the major world religions of our modern world. In fact, all people of good will seek to practice its wisdom in many and diverse ways. Thousands of communities and people from all over the world have signed the Open Letter which challenges us to live what we proclaim.
On September 23, 2010, King Abdullah II of Jordan proposed to the United Nations a resolution calling for the practical implementation of the challenges proposed in the Open Letter, A Common Word Initiative. The United Nations responding to King Abdullah, by a unanimous vote, established the World Interfaith Harmony Week to be observed during the first week of February.
The United Nations resolution states the following objectives:
1. Reaffirms that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace;
2. Proclaims the first week of February of every year the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs;
3. Encourages 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 one’s neighbor or on love of the good and love of one’s neighbor, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions;
4. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the General Assembly informed of the implementation of the present resolution.
More is needed than simply stating the world faith traditions have a common ethic. King Abdullah recognized the need for us to come together in respectful ways as we engage in sincere dialogue about the issues of the day. More than that, the dialogue and conversion of heart the Interfaith Harmony Week observes must become the standard by which we live our daily lives. As King Abdullah stated in his United Nations Address:
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 neighbor; to love the good and neighbor.
People of faith throughout the world will gather in prayer, dialogue, and friendship seeking to bring harmony to a world torn apart by violence and hatred. This is a week to practice the principles of dialogue and love of neighbor in such a way that God is truly praised and loved by our respect and care for one another. Each of us must examine the spiritual principles of our faith traditions gleaning from them the wisdom needed to be people of practical compassion, understanding, and respect. This is a week to intensify our resolve to live lives of interfaith harmony each and every day. As Pope Benedict XVI stated in his address in Jordan on May 9, 2009:
Dear friends, let us unite our efforts, animated by good will, in order to overcome all misunderstanding and disagreements. Let us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties in our relations; let us work with one another to educate all people, especially the young, to build a common future. May God sustain us in our good intentions, and enable our communities to live consistently the truth of love, which constitutes the heart of the religious man, and is the basis of respect for the dignity of each person. May God, the merciful and compassionate One, assist us in this challenging mission, protect us, bless us and enlighten us always with the power of his love.
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
Interfaith Peace Project