Observing World Interfaith Harmony Week
by Robert Arrington
On February 2, 2016 at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, we had the wonderful opportunity of hosting a group from the Westchester Youth Alliance for an interfaith seminar. We celebrated World Interfaith Harmony Week, which was originally proposed by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan.
The 40+ high school students began with an interactive panel on the topic of interfaith relations. Panelists included Peter Prove, Director, International Affairs, the World Council of Churches; Deepika Singh, Director of Programs at Religions for Peace; Leslie Brier, UN Representative for Women of Reform Judaism; and Omair Paul, UN Representative for Muslims for Progressive Values and United States Representative for the Youth Advocacy Network of Pakistan.
The students then formed into four groups each of which one panelist joined and together discussed three questions: (1) How can we in our own lives make a contribution to interfaith harmony? (2) What is one thing you wish more people knew/understood about your faith/values? (3) Have you ever caught yourself judging someone else based on a stereotype? How can we stop that in ourselves?
In honor of H.M. King Abdullah II, we also had the pleasure of hearing from Adi Khair, Counselor and Political Coordinator at the Permanent Mission of Jordan to the United Nations. The students brought with them remarkably insightful questions for Mr. Khair that surpassed their age. Mr. Khair even jokingly remarked that they should be in the meetings at the United Nations posing the same important questions to representatives from the member states. All in all, the students brought incredibly salient questions on the complex topics surrounding interfaith relations. It was truly inspirational for such a diverse group of young people to be so invested in making the world a more peaceful place. I have high hopes for the future with these young leaders continuing to interact with each other and serving as a model for developing interfaith relationships.
Robert Arrington is doing a field education placement with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations through Princeton Theological Seminary. He took the photograph that accompanies this article.