News Story

World Interfaith Harmony Week in Halifax Celebrates Diversity

Public affairs representatives for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Halifax, Nova Scotia, attended a celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Rosaria Student Centre at Mount Saint Vincent University on February 7, 2016, to build stronger relationships with those of other faiths.

In 2010 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved the first week of February each year as World Interfaith Harmony Week. This initiative encourages people to become better acquainted with their neighbours by meeting them in their sacred spaces. Fostering interfaith relationships can help overcome the religious ignorance, misunderstandings and intolerance found in the world today.

Janet MacLennan, public affairs co-director for the Church in the Atlantic Canada provinces, said, “I think … we need to be more aware of one another’s faith positions to improve our understanding and appreciation of each other.”

Janet was joined by her husband, John MacLennan, the other co-director of public affairs in the Atlantic provinces, and Ron Driskill, a Church public affairs specialist.

Approximately 200 people representing Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Mi’kmaq, Muslim and Sikh faiths gathered at the centre for the two-hour celebration. A children’s choir from the local Hindu temple sang two songs; a group of women from the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, whose orders’ headquarters are in Nigeria, sang a spirited song called “Glory to God, Praises to the Lord”; and a Jewish woman taught the audience a song in Hebrew, from the words of Isaiah.

The celebration also included a traditional Mi’kmaq welcome and blessing with drumbeat and song; words of greeting from Dr. Ramona Lumpkin, president of Mount Saint Vincent University; photos and testimonials of sacred spaces; a proclamation by the City of Halifax in support of World Interfaith Harmony Week; and peace greetings, declarations and candle lightings.

The celebration ended with everyone repeatedly singing, “Peace. Salaam. Shalom.”

“It was inspiring,” said Janet MacLennan, “to see how all groups are trying to seek for light and truth and virtue by the way they live. … By forming interfaith relationships in this way we can better work together … to help protect religious freedom, the family and faith. … As we learn from one another, we can be more unified in promoting tolerance and freedom.”

Church President Thomas S. Monson made a plea during general conference, a semi-annual worldwide meeting, for more religious understanding: “I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours” (“Looking Back and Moving Forward,” April 2008 general conference).

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