February 1 to 7 is World Interfaith Harmony Week, an annual observance by the United Nations (UN). This initiative was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan. Just under a month later, on October 20, it was unanimously adopted by the UN and henceforth, the first week of February is observed as World Interfaith Harmony Week.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of A Common Word initiative, started in 2007, which called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue The objective of this initiative is to 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.
World Interfaith Harmony Week
His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, and founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, has emphasised the importance of cultural diversity in an increasingly globalized world, to value pluralism as a strength, and for people of all faiths to work together to solve common societal challenges. To advance global understanding of pluralism – defined as ‘a set of values and actions, founded on respect for diversity, which support and sustain inclusive societies’ – he established the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, Canada.
His Highness reiterated the need for diverse faiths and cultures to work together to solve common challenges during the signing of an Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Portugal and the Ismaili Imamate in Lisbon, on 19 December 2005:
“Our histories have taught us the value of dialogue, and that rarely, indeed very rarely, does anything good come out of conflict. Our world view is to engage with the problem of social exclusion in our societies and to contribute to building bridges across faiths and across nations, by linking diverse parts of the world.
I have no doubt that for you, whose historical roots are in the Christian world, it is as painful as it is for us Muslims, with our roots in the East, to watch an increasingly deep gulf growing between significant parts of our respective worlds. We cannot stand by as passive observers letting this gulf grow wider and wider, at the cost of future generations. If we have the will, which I am certain we share, we have the historical knowledge and the ethical foundations to move our world forward, to make it a better and more hopeful place, and to put an end to the storm of hatred which appears to be building up around us.…
In confronting this situation we share the same need to build our civil societies for we both recognise that it is the civil society institutions of today, that, strengthened and expanded by tomorrow, have the highest probability of enabling people to help themselves out of the quagmire of poverty. Working together in the East and the West, we certainly have the greatest chance of being successful in multiple situations, such as responding to the needs of aging populations… today we must explore every opportunity to have different faiths come together in addressing the problems of our respective societies. We come from the same common religious heritage, descendants of Abraham, and it is enjoined on us to address the problems of society on the same ethical premises.”
His Highness Aga Khan IV
Lisbon, Portugal, 19 December 2005