World Interfaith Harmony week concludes with a message for religious tolerance
13 Feb,Oslo: The Universal Peace Federation (UPF), Norwegian chapter organised celebrated the World Interfaith Harmony week in an effort to create understanding between different faiths and religions.
During the opening event of the week long program that concluded earlier this week, General Secretary of UPF Norway, Steinar Murud emphasized on the role of religion in peace-building. According to him, like in Chinese where religion is defined as the floor teaching, religion is the foundation of all of man kind. ” Religion plays the role of a foundation, upon which our lives should be lived and our societies should be built. Its role should be to help people live good lives in harmony with other people and the environment”, he said.
He further stated that people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King jr. and Nelson Mandela, all found inspiration in their faiths to strengthen the «floors» of their societies, in the form of freedom, civil and human rights.
The Interfaith Harmony Week was celebrated at a time when religious intolerance has become a key factor in violence across the World. “It is a fact that there is an imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions for better understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.
Religion is the matter of peace and joy and many great people around the world have been inspired by it. Great people like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were inspired by religion,” said Murud, before adding that religion has positive values and can play positive role in a society where every person can live in peace and build a better foundation for tomorrow. “In God’s parental Heart and His great love, there is no discrimination based on color or nationality. Through inter-religious dialogue and harmony we should realize one ideal world of peace,” said Murud, while quoting UPF’s founder, Sun Myung Moon, who spoke this very line at the interfaith conference in 1985.
While bringing a more humanist approach to religion, Editor-in-Chief of The Oslo Times, Hatef Mokhtar, said, “It is nice to be a part of the United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week because, it is a much needed step in bringing us all together as one kind. We can all see damage we have all caused in the name of religion,” he said.
He further added that ISIS does not represent Islam. “It is a group of extremists who are supported by countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran ”, he added.
Mokhtar also stated that Islam is not a religion of extremism and hatred, “it is the religion of peace and love which means that ISIS and other extremist groups do not represent Islam”. According to him, instead of claiming to be religious, it is important for people to recognize each other as one human kind”.
Meanwhile, according to Sheikh Mahmoud Jalloul , Islam symbolizes humanity, peace and freedom but with responsibility.
“Every human being is responsible for what he/she does, it does not mean you can do anything or you can say whatever you want”, he said. “There is no space for extremism in Islam but today several groups practice it in the name of religion”.
Citing a line from the Quran regarding extremism, he said “Towards the latter times a few people will come who will have little knowledge; are deficient in intellect; will speak quoting the best of people; have thick beards; wearing shortened garments; have shaved heads; give good speeches but do foul actions; claiming to act upon the Book of God but have no relation to it; they recite the Quran but it doesn’t pass their throats; and they exit from Islam as an arrow exits from its bow.”He further added that according to Prophet Muhammad, they will be ones who will engage in ,senseless killing of innocents in the name of religion, and so they will need to be sought after and fought with.
According to the International Religious Freedom Report, in the past two years alone, the World has witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory. In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths have been forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs.
The report further states that out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are void of residents. Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm.
The Oslo Times