This year, World Interfaith Harmony Week is celebrated between February 1 and 7.
The purpose of this week is to point out that “mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace” and as a means of promoting harmony between all humans, regardless of faith.
Spiritual values drive individual behavior for more than 80% of the human population. In fact, in many countries spiritual beliefs and religion define cultural and social values, social inclusion, political engagement, and economic prosperity.
In celebration of this week, we are excited to share some stories from our diverse, global community.
These stories show us that despite our different religions and faiths, we share a common goal of taking care of our planet Earth.
Carmo from Portugal
From an early age, my religion taught me to look at the world around me.
Inspired by Baden Powel and the beauty I found around me, I decided to study Biology. Today, dedicated to family and volunteering, I have been challenged by Pope Francis and the Laudato Sí Movement to take a new look at the world – our common home – which we must value and look after for our own sake and that of future generations.
I learned from the Catholic Church that the world is our common home, that it is suffering, and that its poorest inhabitants suffer the most. I was therefore encouraged to dedicate my time and energy to contributing to a better, fairer, more conscious, and more peaceful world.
Suprabha from India
Ever-changing. This is a poignant reminder that nothing is permanent in this world, our very existence is transient. One school of thought considers that the Peepal tree represents the (Hindu) Holy Trinity. The roots are Brahma; the trunk is Vishnu, and the branches are Shiva.
According to the Skanda Purana, if one does not have a son, one could consider the Peepal tree as one. People believe that as long as the tree lives, the family name will continue. To cut down a Peepal is equivalent to killing a Brahmin!
The ancient Ayurveda deals essentially with medicinal plants and herbs. Mankind can benefit by using the plants in a responsible manner.
Trees and plants are at the base of the food chain and if not preserved will spell the doom of planet Earth.
Human beings share this planet with plants, animals, fish, birds, and a host of other creatures. For the survival of planet Earth, we must learn to live in harmony with them. As the famous adage goes, “We haven’t inherited this planet from our forefathers we have simply borrowed it from our children”.
Chhaya Taralekar, from India
The principle of ahimsa (non-violence) extends not only to human relationships but also to the treatment of animals and the environment. This promotes an eco-friendly ethos and encourages sustainable practices. The concept of karma, the law of cause and effect, emphasizes the consequences of one’s actions on the environment, fostering a mindful approach towards ecological balance.
Furthermore, rituals and ceremonies often involve offerings to nature, symbolizing gratitude and respect. Pilgrimages to sacred natural sites, such as rivers and mountains, further emphasize the sanctity attributed to the environment.
In summary, Hinduism’s intrinsic connection to nature and the environment is deeply rooted in its spiritual, philosophical, and ethical dimensions, fostering an attitude of reverence, responsibility, and harmony towards the natural world.
The First Nation People (FNP) of Australia
As explained by Mark Allaway
The FNP evolved with our ancient landscapes. They are intimately connected to the landscape, the species of plants and animals, and the forces that have shaped it. The FNP occupied every corner of the continent.
The FNP knew every plant, animal, and insect species in their “Country”. They knew by observation, testing, and treatment, how to use the resources to benefit all. They understood its limits and its bounty. They respected the Country as they would family. It was part of their being and that of their ancestors. Using and modifying the landscape was strictly controlled by links to “totems” – animate and inanimate associations that bound tribal behavior by law and custom.
The reciprocal connection meant they and their Country were dependent on one another for prosperity and survival. And, the knowledge and learning were handed down by stories and “Dreaming” lore to each generation by Elders who held that knowledge. Plants, seeds grains, and natural materials were gifted and traded as part of custom when in another’s Country. Modern science is learning from traditional knowledge holders about how landscape and ecology were managed and nurtured. Small changes could be made to their environment, but only to enhance its health and vitality for all species in the ecosystem.
Thinley from the UK
Thinley told us about the special tree planting done by the Tibetan Community in Britain.
He explained that “His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has been a great advocate for sustainability and protection of the global environment. His Holiness has stated ‘Taking care of our planet should be part of our daily lives. We need to work together to meet the climate challenge that affects us all.’ One of the ways we can fulfill His Holiness’ advice, is to plant trees.”
Accordingly, the Tibetan Community in Britain (TCB)’s Board Members for 2020-2022 initiated a tree-planting project in honor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s commitment to the global environment. The project is also aimed to pay gratitude to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s tireless dedication to the freedom and welfare of Tibetan people.
Together, they planted 226 (113 trees, twice) trees in West Yorkshire, England, and dedicated them to the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama”.
Brigitte Ott from Austria
Brigitte got involved with tree planting in Tanzania through a Christian organization. In collaboration with local schools, they planted fruit trees, dedicating them to the long life of the Dalai Lama and to universal peace
She explained that at first, planting and caring for trees was regarded as a burden by the children.
By educating and motivating them, they were taught about the importance of trees. They learned how to care for them. They saw that in return, the trees cared for them by providing fruit.
This lovely Christian group, then, went a step further. They bought gas cookers for the schools. In that way, there was no reason to cut down the trees for firewood.
In light of this, Brigitte told us that this is a story not just merely about planting trees. It is a story of attitude transformation. It is a story about learning the value of trees and caring for the environment.
Yet, there is one more facet of interdependence in this story. Nearly half of the population in Tanzania follows the Islam religion. This story illustrates how we can unite, even through our diversities. We are one human family of nearly eight billion brothers and sisters.
Environmental care, protection, and education are needed globally!
Matheus from Brazil
At the basis of Buddhist philosophy is the concept of interdependence. Buddhism teaches that all phenomena are interconnected and that nothing exists in isolation. This theory implies that every action, no matter how small, has repercussions on the whole. By recognizing this interdependence, we are encouraged to reflect on the ecological implications of our daily choices.
Ecology, in my view of Buddhism, is not just a matter of environmental preservation, but an extension of the deep understanding that all forms of life are intrinsically connected. Wasting resources, polluting the environment, or causing damage to nature is therefore seen as detrimental not only to the planet but also to one’s spiritual path.
The Dalai Lama is one of our environmental heroes. Religious harmony is one of his pillars.
“All religions offer help to humanity. Especially when facing difficult situations, all religions offer hope. Therefore, we must respect all religions.
If we don’t remain closed-minded but open up, then we can learn something from each other. That way, we can develop mutual understanding and respect. And anyway, a new reality is there. Therefore, I think that the development of mutual harmony among different religions is very important. This is one of my commitments until my death, to promote religious harmony. This is very helpful.”