1 February 2016. University for Peace Campus, Costa Rica – In many parts of the world, the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week was observed and celebrated by different institutions and groups, in accordance to the UN’s declaration of the first week of February of each year as a time to celebrate diversity of faiths and interfaith harmony. This year, through the Interfaith Dialogue Group, UPEACE took its part in undertaking activities promoting diversity and harmony within different faiths through the celebration of the UPEACE Interfaith Dialogue Week 2016.
The UPEACE Interfaith Dialogue Group was formed last year after Prof. Toh Swee-Hin and Bunthea Ly (Peace Education- IPS) attended a meeting of Costa Rican universities, including ULACIT and Earth University, to share ideas for a collaborative interfaith dialogue project.
The UPEACE group organized activities for the university community that aim to foster peace, understanding and solidarity between and among different faiths. With the theme “Bridging Differences Through Our Common Values”, the UPEACE Interfaith Dialogue Week 2016 ran from February 2 to 5, and showcased activities that include knowledge sharing on peace and harmony, interactive message boards, hijab tutorial presented by Maria Bermudez (in commemoration of the World Hijab Day), and film showing on the interfaith dialogue movement around the world. The week-long celebration culminated with a brown bag session featuring an interfaith dialogue panel on faiths and climate change, “Addressing the Crisis of Climate Change: Perspectives and Practices of Diverse Faiths & Spirituality Traditions”.
The brown bag session showcased panelists from the students and the faculty who discussed the key values and principles of each faith and spirituality tradition in understanding the roots of climate change and how this can be mitigated from the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Daoist perspectives. Best practices were also shared to the audience who actively participated in the open forum. The brown bag session was moderated by International Law student Shawn Tallant, with panel discussants including Professors Toh, Manish Thapa, and Gal Harmat, and students Arunima Chougley, Maria Bermudez, Claudia Moscoso, and Chanchhaya Chhom.
The activities organized were met with warm support from UPEACE students and staff members, and have become an avenue for the university community to talk about the common values that faith and spirituality groups hold onto, and use these ideals to build harmony and acceptance amongst people of diverse backgrounds. This celebration is part of the Interfaith Dialogue Group’s activities in promoting the goals of interfaith dialogue towards a culture of peace.
By Reinna (Maria) Bermudez
MA Environment, Development, and Peace