World Interfaith Harmony Week (& National Freedom Day)

“The fact is, humanity everywhere is bound together, not only by mutual interests, but by shared commandments to love God and neighbor; to love good and neighbor.”

King Abdullah II of Jordan on World Interfaith Harmony Week

World Interfaith Harmony Week was established by the UN just three years ago—in 2010—and has already inspired hundreds of events worldwideFRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1: A collective effort pushes interfaith peace into world headlines this week with the third annual World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Established to highlight promising work by grassroots groups and projects around the world, the United Nations established World Interfaith Harmony Week as proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan. That first Week—set just three months after its adoption—connected with 200 registered events in more than 40 countries. The next year, 100 more events were added to the list.

This year, entire cities are embracing World Interfaith Harmony Week for the first time, including Toronto, Canada, and Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines.


World Interfaith Harmony Week stems from the landmark 2007 statement by many of the world’s top Muslim leaders, called A Common Word. (Wikipedia has a short history of the Week itself, as well as an overview of A Common Word.) ReadTheSpirit has encouraged ongoing interfaith responses to A Common Word, including this 2011 interview with Miroslav Volf—the Yale University theologian who organized a diverse Christian response to the original Muslim letter.

Although the process has moved slowly and some religious leaders in the U.S. and abroad declined to participate, the original group of Muslim leaders and interfaith activists like Volf are pleased to see the continued flowering of their work. Now, World Interfaith Harmony Week has expanded beyond a specific religious focus to a general goal of promoting “Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbor.” This opens participation to people of any world religion—or of no particular religion.

In December, ReadTheSpirit reported a number of stories about the importance of including unaffiliated men and women in future coalitions. One story was headlined, Global Religions: Rise of the Unaffiliated, Including Nones. Another was headlined, Welcoming Churches: Greeting Nones and Jedi knights.


In addition to the start of World Interfaith Harmony Week, today marks National Freedom Day in the United States—a commemoration of President Lincoln’s signing of the resolution that would become the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Wikipedia has details.) On Feb. 1, 1865, President Lincoln signed to outlaw slavery, and Americans have celebrated the freedom and equal opportunities of all citizens since President Truman’s proclamation, in 1948. National Freedom Day is not a federal holiday, although many communities hold ceremonies and festivals.

CARE TO READ MORE? Here is a convenient index to many other stories about Lincoln 150th-anniversary events in 2013.

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