The celebration started officially last February 1, 2018 with a breakfast fellowship hosted by the Archbishop of Manila, His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, at the Arzobispado de Manila together with leaders of various religions and members of the diplomatic corps.

Raft race
Raft race

Speaking to those who were present, Cardinal Tagle said, “We get the opportunity to talk about the things in life, be they big or small, when we are gathered together around a dining table with our family and friends while eating our meal. There is something in a meal that teaches people how to come together, how to live with sensitivity to one another. In a meal, we don’t only share food, we also share presence, and we share stories.”

Focolare members with the new Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Italian Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia
Focolare members with the new
Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Italian
Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia

The breakfast fellowship was held “to start the week with something very simple, a meal”, he said, while also adding that a meal “is a profound way of developing harmony”. Discussing the theme shortly, the Cardinal said, “We know that religion is deeply embedded in the hearts of individuals and even in cultures. And so, if there is any resource…for the promotion of common good, religion is one of them.”

Shortly after the breakfast fellowship, the Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Buddhist Temple opened its doors to guests to continue the celebration. There was a short welcoming program with presentations followed by an interfaith prayer for love and peace by the leaders of the different religions. Afterwards, students of the temple led participants in a Buddhist meditation and concluded with a vegetarian lunch.

On the second day of the celebration, a forum was organized by the Religions for Peace and the University of Santo Tomas entitled, “A Forum on Peace and Security in the Community: A Shared Responsibility” which focused on the shared responsibility of every member of the community in securing peace as a response to the growing threat of extremism. On the same day, there was also a “Declaration of Harmony Peace Zone” by the Silsilah Movement and Quiapo Church.

Team-building games for peace-building and future partnerships.
Team-building games for peace-building and future partnerships.

On the third day of the celebration, a Peace Youth Camp was organized by the Focolare Movement and the Church of Latter-Day Saints of Jesus Christ in Antipolo with the goal of letting young people understand, appreciate and respect each faith’s uniqueness and shared attributes. Most of the day was spent on team-building games so young people can establish good rapport with other young people for peace-building and future partnerships.

The Youth for a United World shared about the six sides of the Cube of Peace. A Hindu, a Buddhist, a Catholic, a Muslim, an Aglipayan, and a Mormon each shared their thoughts and experiences on what one side of the Cube of Peace has to say. The Youth for a United World encouraged the use of the Cube of Peace among the participants and promoted it as a tool to guide young people in their commitment to peace and unity.

On the same day, the Peacemakers Circle organized a forum in Quezon City entitled, “A Forum on Loving God, Loving Neighbors: An Afternoon with Peoples of Different Faiths” which provided participants an opportunity to meet practitioners
of other religions and engage in dialogue concerning their faith traditions and beliefs. On the fourth day of the celebration, there was a movie showing of “Two Hearts as One” organized by the Pacific Dialogue Foundation. The remaining days of the week-long celebration were spent with public forums and youth peacebuilding workshops organized by different groups.

Throughout the entire week-long celebration, the Brahma Kumaris Philippines took a commitment to hold a daily moment of silence for 15 minutes for the vision of interfaith harmony and unity which they called, “Pause Muna, Peace Muna”.

Focolare Youth Representatives with Cardinal Tagle
Focolare Youth Representatives with Cardinal Tagle

Since 2011, the World Interfaith Harmony Week is observed
every first week of February in accordance with Resolution 65/5
of the United Nations’ General Assembly in October 2010. In the said resolution, the UN General Assembly states that it recognizes “the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people”.

In addition, it also “reaffirms that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace”. The WIHW celebration was an initiative and a proposal of King Abdullah II of Jordan. In 2012, the Uniharmony Partners Manila was formed to implement the said resolution and to lead the annual celebration of the WIHW in the Philippines.

Giancarlo “Gio” Francisco
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