This week at WIN we have been celebrating Interfaith Harmony Week: an annual opportunity for interfaith organisations around the world to share their work, connect with one another and to highlight the role of interfaith work in building peace, co-operation and mutual understanding.
The observance of Interfaith Harmony Week grew out of the Common Word Initiative, a document produced in 2007 highlighting common ground and shared tenets between Christian and Muslim communities by focusing on the key commandments to ‘Love your God’ and ‘Love your Neighbour’. Through Interfaith Harmony Week, these core teachings have developed into ‘Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour’, values so essential that they are shared by communities of all faiths and none and therefore act as a springboard for dialogue.
For us at WIN, Interfaith Harmony Week is an opportunity to amplify the work of our grassroots groups and their efforts to promote friendship and embrace difference in their communities. Our members, far from being slowed down by the pandemic, have found new and creative ways to continue to connect and build bridges even while kept apart by lockdown restrictions. According to members from Waltham Forest WIN, the group made the ‘unanimous decision…to remain undeterred in our effort to reach out as sisters of faith’ and to continue to serve their community.
Waltham Forest WIN’s Annual Faith Pilgrimage Walk successfully transitioned to a virtual pilgrimage over zoom, providing members an opportunity to learn about different faith communities from the comfort of their own homes. In fact, members noted that the new online format meant additional ‘time to focus’ on each faith community and an added sense of ‘intimacy’ and openness in the discussions.
On the other hand, Barnet WIN’s book club, launched in November 2020, provided a ‘good distraction from all the negative news and feeling isolated’, according to Co-Chair Suchita Rajadhyaksha, as well as opening up rich conversations around members own ‘experience and memories of our upbringing, culture and tradition, the pain of leaving our countries and much more’. Barnet WIN also developed their long-standing devotional meetings into zoom devotionals, promoting in-depth interfaith discussion around pressing social issues and highlighting common threads across different faiths.
Our groups’ stories from the last few years highlight the impressive resilience of grassroots interfaith coalitions. Their ongoing commitment to building bridges, to embracing differences while uniting around shared values, as well as to maintaining strong ties of friendship through isolation and social distancing, capture the spirit of Interfaith Harmony Week.