A Simple Way to Celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week

A Simple Way to Celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week February 2, 2024

An invitation to visit Alignment's digital prayer wall for peace
Visit Alignment’s Prayer Wall for Peace to leave a message of peace and interfaith harmony. (Canva)

For the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, Alignment: Interfaith Contemplative Practices is hosting a virtual Prayer Wall for Peace. Add your own message to the wall and join a global community of people from a wide array of traditions. Individuals and communities are posting songs, prayers, images, words, poems, messages of all kinds with the intention of highlighting interfaith harmony and expanding the longing for peace in a world that is hurting. Take a few minutes to add your message and to visit the messages left by others. Sit vigil with the prayer wall for some minutes of quiet meditation with messages left by others. Visit daily through the week of February 1-7 to discover new treasures or to leave another message of your own.

As you feel comfortable, add your name, or perhaps a community or tradition with which you are aligned. You will find messages of peace that transcend any particular faith tradition and also prayers that highlight the beauty of a tradition that you may not have experienced before. 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” And so we add our little messages of peace on a simple image of a wall. Together with people around the world who have different ways of knowing peace and building peace and needing peace. And together, we build a foundation.

The Tradition of a Prayer Wall

The closest one can come to the Holy of Holies, a prayer’s breath away, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, הַכּוֹתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי, haKotel haMa’aravi, one slips a piece of paper in a crack, offered to the divine presence of the wall. Known in Islam as the Buraq Wall, حَائِط ٱلْبُرَاق, Ḥā’iṭ al-Burāq, the site from which the Prophet Muhammad took his Night Journey to heaven and back. It has been a site of destruction, of lament, and of ascension. The wall, not a barrier, but a place of connection. Walls, to keep in or to keep out. Borders and boundaries. But can we reframe the structure, the image of a wall, according to the beautiful presence of the Western Wall, a place of divine connection? Where human and divine are a breath together. Where the spiritual and the material world are one. Where journeys begin and seekers return. A holy foundation.

Paper prayer notes tucked into the Western Wall in Jerusalem
The Western Wall, Jerusalem. Prayers offered to the divine presence within the wall. (Flikr: Andreas Mariotti)

Prayer Wall for Peace

Stone upon stone. Held by mortar or
                      by the whisper of shapes conformed.
Brick laid on brick. Cemented by the labor of repetition.
Prayer after prayer, its strength built by each addition
                      an image of a lakeside respite
                      a song of unifying love
                      a poem that has touched a heart
Not a rampart of division. But a foundation for hope.
                      where all traditions are honored
                      all prayers are lifted
                      all pray-ers cherished.

Please visit Alignment’s virtual Prayer Wall for Peace. Add something that is sitting on your heart. We are not sending petitions or seeking forgiveness. We are cultivating presence. Among all humanity and the entirety of divinity. Seeking peace through connection.

The Origin of World Interfaith Harmony Week

The initiative for this week of celebration was brought to the United Nations by King Abdullah II of Jordan in 2010.

Recognizing the urgent need for fostering better relationships between diverse religious groups, the proposal was swiftly adopted by the UN General Assembly. This initiative calls upon governments, institutions, and civil society to promote the objectives of WIHW through various programs and initiatives aimed at enhancing mutual understanding and cooperation.

WIHW serves as a powerful reminder of the value of dialogue and understanding across different religious and faith traditions. In a world often divided by religious misunderstandings and conflicts, this observance provides a platform for people to come together, celebrate their differences, and work towards a shared goal of peace. It underscores the idea that despite our diverse beliefs and practices, there is more that unites us than divides us.

Every year, from February 1st to 7th, the world commemorates World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW), a time dedicated to fostering mutual understanding, peace, and harmony among people of different faiths. This week-long observance highlights the crucial role of interfaith dialogue in building a culture of peace and nonviolence.

Culminating Event

Alignment is honored to be hosting one of the WIHW events, and our week will culminate with an online gathering to celebrate the gifts presented on Alignment’s Prayer Wall for Peace and the culmination of the World Interfaith Harmony Week. Sunday, February 11, 7:00-7:30 pm ET/4:00 pm PT. Please join us for a time that recognizes the simplicity of interfaith harmony, during a time in our world where nothing seems simple as we war against one another.

About Margaret Somerville
Rev. Dr. Margaret Somerville is the director of Alignment: Interfaith Contemplative Practices. In a career as a Quaker educator and a Presbyterian minister, the focus of her work has been embracing the practices of a variety of traditions to deepen our connection to the divine. As a retreat leader and associate member of the Iona Community, she offers resources for people to expand their connections in the pursuit of peace. Find out more about Margaret's work at www.interfaithalignment.org. You can read more about the author here.
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