World Interfaith Harmony Week 2020

World Interfaith Harmony Week 2020

For World Interfaith Harmony Week we held four events with a wide range of audiences to try to understand what causes hatred and to explore how together can we overcome it and grow to ‘love God and our neighbours’ more deeply.  

We will not be Prisoners of Hate

On 3rd February 2020 a delegation of faith community representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Baha’i religions visited Barlinnie prison to engage with the prisoners on an interfaith programme entitled ‘We will not be prisoners of hate’.

The men in the prison who had agreed to engage in the interfaith programme had begun an educational journey that explored the root cause of hatred and climaxed in them learning about the genocides that had resulted from deep division and hatred of what is perceived as ‘the other’. The men produced artwork and poetry that had been inspired by their learning.  Based on the theme of the interfaith engagement the book of poetry was entitled ‘we will not be prisoners of hate’.   This was their first World Interfaith Harmony Week experience.

On the 3rd of February visit, Interfaith Scotland facilitated a programme which included a testimony from a Muslim survivor of the Bosnian Genocide (Hasan Hasonivic); a testimony from an ex-prisoner who had used his religion to transform his negative life experiences; a moving Q & A session with the prisoners; a viewing of the creative work of the prisoners; and an opportunity for dialogue and engagement with the diverse faiths that had entered the prison.   

It wasn’t what I expected…it was far more than I expected, the event has sparked a genuine interest to learn more and to change (Prisoner)

I found it very moving to hear the stories of the two speakers, both of whom after harrowing experiences had turned their initial hatred of ‘the other’ into a powerful force for positive change in the world. Seeing prisoners engaging in dialogue with people from such diverse faith backgrounds was incredible. The prisoners had also created powerful works of art that formed the backdrop to the event. I was left feeling that this had been a transformative interfaith experience for all those involved. (A Christian participant)

I have learnt to treat our fellow men with better respect and compassion (Prisoner)

‘Tackling Hate Together’

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The World Interfaith Harmony event ‘Tackling Hate Together’ was supported by representatives from diverse faith communities, Remembering Srebrenica and Police Scotland.  This open public interfaith event explored how we as a society could ‘tackle hate together’ and begin to stem the tide of growing division and hatred.

Over 65 people attended the event, held in Garnethill Synagogue, the oldest Synagogue in Glasgow.  Those present came from diverse religious and non-religious traditions including, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Baha’i, Unitarian and Humanist.  

The evening opened with two short guest presentations from a Jewish Holocaust survivor and a Muslim survivor of the Bosnian Genocide.  The focus of their presentations was on how the extreme hatred had evolved that led to mass murder and what they as individuals had done, over many years, to transform the hatred they initially felt into constructive energy to work for peace education and human rights.

Immediately after the Q & A those present paired with someone from a religious tradition other than their own and explored the following questions;

  1. What could I do when I hear hateful words?
  2. What could I do when I see hateful actions?
  3. What could I do when I witness a hate incident or crime?

The participants were invited to write their answers on cards which were gathered at the end of the evening.  Interfaith Scotland is using these answers to prepare a ‘Tackling Hate Together’ guide. 

The evening ended with a short summary from Chief Inspector, Colleen Wylie (Safer Communities, Equality and Diversity Unit).  The Chief Inspector highlighted how Police Scotland is working with communities to end hatred and violence and she emphasised the critical importance of the support of the faith communities of Scotland to the work of Police Scotland.  She highlighted the unique contribution each faith community with their distinct teachings could bring to tackling hate.  The power of working together was also emphasised and World Interfaith Harmony Week was highlighted as a powerful global initiative.  


Knowing how important it is to not only challenge the mind through education but to touch the heart through creativity and music, Interfaith Scotland decided to commission an original piece of music dedicated to children who have suffered or continue to suffer because of hatred and discrimination.  The piece was commissioned for World Interfaith Harmony Week and Holocaust Memorial 2020 and was premiered on 28th January to a packed audience of over 200 people.  The composers worked with Interfaith Scotland and with students from diverse faith traditions across Glasgow to prepare for the evening.  

The event took place in the main auditorium of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and was preceded by a reception hosted by Principal Sharkey who is himself from the Jewish Tradition.  The Lord Provost of Glasgow attended the reception and the concert.  The concert opened with profound words from Principal Sharkey and then Dr. Sier, Director of Interfaith Scotland, spoke of how important it is to learn from history and to challenge hatred and discrimination wherever we see it.  This was followed by a full hour of music involving young people from countries as diverse as Scotland, South America, Ukraine, Russian, China and Armenia and the performances involved faith-based music from Muslim, Christian, Jewish traditions and Roma traditions. 

Stand Together

In 2020 World Interfaith Harmony Week fell immediately after Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 and Interfaith Scotland was delighted that the significance of this was marked by those in the highest office of Scottish Government and civil society.  The theme was Stand Together a theme that resonated with the World Interfaith Harmony motto of ‘love of God and love of neighbour’ and Interfaith Scotland organised and hosted a full programme of talks, exhibitions and music held in the Scottish Parliament on the evening of 27th January.

The first Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, spoke at the event and emphasised the importance of standing together to tackle hatred and discrimination.  Holocaust and genocide survivors, Janine Webber and Hasan Hasanovic, spoke of overcoming hate and promoting peaceful co-existence; school children spoke of lessons they had learned and the Glasgow Strings Orchestra played a section of the music ’Unforgotten’ which was premiered the following night.  Rwanda and subsequent genocides were also highlighted. The audience who were made up of Members of the Scottish Parliament, Faith Leaders and community representatives, representatives of diverse Consulates, school children and young people from across Scotland and members of local interfaith groups had time for dialogue and food together as part of this collaborative Holocaust Memorial and World Interfaith Harmony Week event.

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