Nairobi, Kenya – Religious leaders, media and members of the public including dozens of youth gathered at the Desmond Tutu Centre to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week under the theme “Interfaith Cooperation for Peaceful Existence and the Sustainable Development Goals of Africa.”
The event was sponsored by United Religions Initiative – Africa, African Council of Religious Leaders, African Media Initiative, Inter-Religious Council of Kenya and All Africa Conference of Churches. World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Ambassador Mussie Hailu, Regional Director of URI – Africa, welcomed the delegates in his opening remarks. “One guiding principle for peaceful coexistence and compassion is the golden rule,” says Ambassador Hailu. “As we gather in our different faiths, we pray for peace, particularly in areas with political unrest like Central African Republic, Somali and Burundi. 16 countries are holding elections this year and we pray for peaceful elections everywhere.”
Meredith Beal of the African Media Initiative (AMI) spoke about AMI’s campaign to fight hate speech in the media and shared points from the public debate on hate speech held at AMI’s recent African Media Leaders Forum in Johannesburg, SA. Beal also shared Ethical Journalism News’ Five-Point Hate Speech Test for Journalists as well as a Checklist for Tolerance.
“Media has a powerful voice and the ability to shape public opinion and behavior,” says Beal. “It is important that media practitioners are careful not to inflame passions or incite violence and are mindful of the impact of what they publish or broadcast.”
In his keynote address, Dr. Mohamed Omar, Peace and Security Representative for the Horn of Africa, underscored the importance of individual action and the critical role of religious institutions can play in creating and maintaining the peace. “Religion should not be used as a basis for violence,” says Dr. Omar.
The African Union’s Youth President Stephen Machua implored young people to take responsibility for creating a more peaceful society. “The inequalities that exist can be solved through our small acts of kindness,” he explains. Machua noted that because 70% of Africa’s population is comprised of youth, it is more critical than ever to instill in them a passion for peace.
All of the delegates endorsed a Personal Pledge for Peace and Non-Violence