INTERFAITH -LUNAR NEW YEAR
Participants of various faiths give oranges to people during the World Interfaith Harmony Week event. Photo: MUIS

Michelle Voo

Happy World Interfaith Harmony Week 2019! “One Blood, One Humanity”.

From “wows”, polite “thank yous” and bewilderment to downright suspicion and outright rejection – such was the spectrum of reactions various faith-based groups received on Feb 9 when they offered this greeting of peace (printed on a postcard), an invitation to a blood donation drive at a mosque, and a pair of oranges to members of the public at the Bishan MRT and Junction 8 mall area.

Around 70 members of various faiths took part in this outreach, including seven young people and three adults from the Catholic Church.

World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) was first proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan at the United Nations in 2010. The UN General Assembly later declared the first week of February as WIHW, calling on all governments, institutions and civil society to hold initiatives promoting interfaith harmony.

The Bishan activities were organised and hosted by An-Nahdhah Mosque in Bishan in collaboration with the Harmony Centre (MUIS – Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura) to create awareness of WIHW in Singapore, especially among youth leaders.

Ustaz Mohamed Ali Atan, Chairman of An-Nahdhah Mosque and Head of MUIS’ Harmony Centre explained that young people should take more seriously their responsibility to help build social cohesion in Singapore through interfaith dialogue in their youth communities. This was why each of the interfaith outreach groups had a good mix of youth and more senior leaders.

Ustaz Ashraf Anwar, 26, a Board member of An-Nahdhah, said the WIHW blood donation drive was to emphasise that all human beings share and need the same lifeblood to survive.

As Mr Ian Carter, 32, of the Baha’i faith, remarked: “Just like blood has many types e.g. A, B, AB and O, so humanity has many races and religions. But all are one.”

Canossian Sister Theresa Seow, from the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD) and Mr Julian Tay, 18, from the Church of the Holy Spirit were among those who came forward as donors.

Mr Tay said that it was his very small, but very personal contribution, to the interfaith movement given his time constraints as a student.

Mr Brian Ooi, 35, a catechist from St Mary of the Angels, said it was never too early to teach children about building bonds of friendship between races and religions, and added that he would definitely share his WIWH experiences with his Primary 4 class.

In conjunction with the Lunar New Year, about 1,000 oranges were distributed to people of different faiths and races during the outreach at Bishan. Venerable Phra Goh, 33, from the Palelai Buddhist Temple and a youth member of the Inter-Religious Organisation, Singapore (IRO), said the giving of oranges by people of different faiths and races fittingly mirrored the multi-ethnic milieu of Singapore.

On Feb 4, a historic Document On Human Fraternity For World Peace And Living Together was signed by Pope Francis together with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in Abu Dhabi.

The document “invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters”.

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