Towards a world of interfaith harmony

Meeting at Holy Cross Primary School

By Gwynne Robins

In 2010, King Abdullah II of Jordan at the 65th UN General Assembly proposed a World Interfaith Harmony Week.

King Abdullah said: “It is [also] essential to resist forces of division that spread misunder-standing and mistrust especially among peoples of different religions. The fact is, humanity everywhere is bound together, not only by mutual interests, but by shared commandments to love God and neighbour… What we are proposing is a special week, during which the world’s people, in their own places of worship, could express the teachings of their own faith about tolerance, respect for the others and peace.”

The first week in February was selected and it was passed unanimously. Although South Africa, with its history of racism and prejudice, would benefit from promoting the concept, no programmes are run by the government. Despite this, the Cape SAJBD has been commemorating the event annually since 2012. Our initiative has been followed by the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, the Cape Town Ahmadiyyas, and in Durban, by the World Alliance of Religions and Peace.

Our first event was addressed by Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, who flew in from Maputo where he had been assisting with a flood.

Since then we have hosted breakfasts and panel discussions with speakers ranging from former Premier Ebrahim Rasool, Mayor Dan Plato and former mayor Rev Gordon Oliver to Judge Albie Sachs, Judge Dennis Davis, Khoisan Chief Autshumao, Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Dominee Ds Braam Hanekom, Rabbi Greg Alexander, Rabbi Osher Feldman, Mickey Glass, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Cape Times editor Gasant Abarder, Institute of Justice and Reconciliation’s Stanley Henkeman (who passed away recently from COVID-19), Turquoise Harmony Institute’s Muhittin Canlibel, and others.

Our events have attracted members from the Anglican, Catholic, Dutch Reformed and Unitarian Churches, and Baha’i, Sunni, Shiite, Ahmadiyya and African Traditional faith communities.

Last year’s interfaith concert was held at Greenpoint Temple Israel and filmed for television, featuring the Herzlia School choir, Muslim musicians, and performers from the Congolese refugee community, the African traditional community and the Khoisan community.

This year, our Zoom webinar will be looking at how the different faith communities have been coping during the lockdown. We shall be sharing ideas about how they have managed to connect their congregation, not all of their members owning computers, and how they have had to negotiate services and life cycle events, and the many COVID-19 fatalities. It is on Thursday 4 February from 19:00 to 20:00 with a livestream on Facebook.

Contact Jodi at sajbd2@ctjc.co.za for the link.

Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies website: www.capesajbd.org, Instagram, and Facebook page.

Published in the print edition of the February 2021 issue. Download the February 2021 issue PDF here.

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