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New Interfaith Communities – a Wonder to Behold

By Paul Chaffee


The best evidence of interfaith community emerging globally this month was the third celebration of World Harmony Week, proposed in 2010 at the United Nations by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan. Thousands of celebrations were held this year to huge press coverage. Google “World Harmony Week” today and 67.3 million responses pop up. Terrific news! TIO’s stories this month show why what is happening is so much bigger than the numbers.

This month’s “Models of Interfaith Community” theme begins with three stories concerning Indigenous traditions and Mother Earth. So much has gone wrong between established religions and Indigenous traditions that it seemed appropriate to start redefining community in light of Indigenous concerns. What are they asking about, for, and from community? Three compelling answers.

Then the sky’s the limit. We read of an interfaith “immersion” in the spiritual soup of New York City, and of the United Nations “Alliance of Civilizations,” nearly a decade into creating an international interfaith community.

Activism is a frequent driver in new interfaith communities:

  • In the Middle East the Interfaith Encounter Association has sponsored thousands of events designed to engender friendship.

  • A Sikh interfaith activist gathers friends to her living room and designs a new way to effectively advocate for social justice, starting with ending sexual trafficking.

  • A college senior interns with a 40-year-old interfaith political lobby in the state of Minnesota, a story to warm the heart of any justice organizer.

Jennifer Peace reports that the American Academy of Religion, ‘the’ community at the top of American religious academe, will make interreligious studies a part of its permanent agenda, a welcome development. And C. Randall Paul, a Mormon, combines confession and serious attention to what makes good relationships, in his story about a Foundation offering Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Buddhists, and others – no matter how conservative, a way to fit comfortably in the interfaith family.

Once comfortably there, you (or more likely your kids), can use the community-building tools Sana Saeed talks about this month!