As previously reported on Monday, February 1st the Parliament of the World's Religions joined the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative (CTII) to mark the official start of UN World Interfaith Harmony Week for the program, Keeping the Faith in Challenging Times.
The program featured the special participation of Parliament Chair, Nitin Ajmera, and past 1st place winners of the H.M. King Abdullah II World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize including the Interfaith Mediation Centre from Nigeria, the Silsilah Dialogue Movement from the Philippines, EUCLID “Common Word” from the Gambia, the Calgary Interfaith Council from Canada, the Interfaith Centre of Melbourne from Australia, the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative from South Africa, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Ministry of Religious Affairs from Jordan.
Read the full remarks from Parliament Chair, Nitin Ajmera below:
Jai Jinendra. I bow down to the Lord in you.
May the entire universe be blessed, may all beings engage in each other’s well being. May all weakness, sickness and faults diminish; may everyone and everywhere be healthy, peaceful and blissful.
Brothers and Sisters of the world, it is such an honor to be in front of all of you. In 1893, a few people thought of bringing this diverse world together in Chicago. And by bringing the religions of the world, for FAITH is a common thread that interwinds the human diaspora. 100 years later, we assembled again in Chicago to celebrate what is the birth of an interfaith movement, and for 100 years, its mission was carried through the works of Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Martin Luther King, Annie Beasant, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, and many others. At the 1993 Parliament at Chicago, we came forward to create a Global Ethics statement that is near and dear to the Parliament since then. From there, we went on to do our next Parliament in your beautiful town, Yes, Cape Town, South Africa. For we knew that we cannot run an interfaith revolution by not leaving our shores and reaching out to our brothers and sisters in other countries.
And then, not only did we have a successful event at Cape Town, we found a sister organization in CTII – Cape Town Interfaith Initiative. In the last 22 years, you have carried forward our torch and have given the interfaith movement a new dimension, aspace, a recognition. Brothers and Sisters, Parliament is indeed an organization that stands for interfaith movement and does convening once in 4 or 5 years. But it also stands for its fellow organizations like CTII and we stand here with you. We sow the seeds of a realization that this world needs a dialogue, a coming together, a chair at the table for all. And through our convenings and programs at Barcelona, Melbourne, SLC, Toronto, we have created space for more interfaith reckoning and respect for all with all our differences, yet one.
2020, was a year, where Faith is the only thing that cured us. Faith is the only thing that kept hope. A small one-cell organism called a COVID-19 virus continues to control the world, and we patiently learned a lesson for generations to come. 2020 – also created a need for an absolute end to systemic racial discrimination, breaking through our barriers of differences – of religion, race, age, sex, nationality, and COLOR. Yes, even in 2021, we need to discuss COLOR. I read the news about the end of Apartheid in 1990, during my high school prayer meeting, I believed that color was now a discussion in history books. But last year has shown us that we are not done yet. And as the human civilization came to standstill worldwide, pictures of the Himalayas from a town in distant Punjab, showed us that if we control the pollution in our climate, the air will be cleaner, and so will be our vision. Do we have a 2020 vision? I believe, the year 2020, has shown us what our clear vision should be. It should be about our world, our climate, our peace, our friendship, our people, and our oneness; not our egos, pride, or prejudices!!.
So, how does Interfaith bring solutions to the problems of the world? I personally believe that there is deep-rooted spiritualism, faith, religion, belief, or a following that guides us individually. And in the core of this spirit, there is only love, peace, and happiness. There is not a soul in the world, who does not want these three things. As mankind approaches to work from the tenets of love, peace, and happiness; it will ask why is the other person not happy; and in this process; we will know what one is doing that is not making everyone be loved, be at peace, or be happy. And that will create a possibility of new thought, direction and positive growth. The solutions to our problems of nuclear proliferation, climate change, wars, hatred, discrimination; lies in the common thread of love, peace, and happiness, that is core to every spiritual, religious faith. And if we can get to the core, we will find ourselves resolving these issues for once and for all.
So, through these interfaith dialogues, be it at Parliament, or at CTII, I have the utmost confidence in all of us, that we are a species of resilience, and we can shatter the boundaries that divide us and create channels of love, peace, and happiness to solve our problems. And our spirit of FAITH will continue to guide us. As we embark on the World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2021, I call upon all of us to light another candle, another hope, look at your partner on your right and your left, and ask, What can I do better for you?
Jai Jinendra!! I bow down to the God in you.
Enjoy the full program and reflections from participants by watching the Livestream on the CTII Facebook page.