During the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014, UPF Youth Austria, France and Russia joined in organising an interfaith event at the initiative of UPF Russia. A questionnaire about interfaith harmony was sent to UPF members, ambassadors for peace and friends. In 3 days, we collected over 130 answers. A public video-conference was then held between the three countries, with altogether about 40 people participating between Moscow, Paris and Vienna. During the event we shared the questionnaire results of our respective countries and compared the answers. The main topics addressed were:
- the expected outcomes of the interfaith harmony week,
- how religious education is perceived and how to improve it in an interfaith perspective,
- the way to overcome religious differences and to contribute to religious harmony.
Every participant of the conference had the chance to share their views about the answers or more generally about interfaith harmony with the other countries.
According to the answers most people think that the World Interfaith Harmony Week should bring together people from various religious backgrounds. Most people hold the view that religion should be taught in school as a comprehensive education on the world’s religious beliefs and worldviews and many people also agreed on that is should be taught as experience-based by visiting various faith communities. People are of the opinion that the most effective means to help people overcome religious differences is by joint actions for the benefit of society such as volunteering projects, as well as increased interfaith dialogue and events with focus on particularly conflicted areas. To the question ‘what would you find the most appealing way to personally contribute to religious harmony’ people answered that they would participate in and/or invite friends to interfaith events and service projects, and to talk to someone of a different religion. Most people never heard about the publication called ‘World Scriptures’, where the core teachings of the main religions are summarized according to different topics.
The answers to each question were fairly divided for France except for 3 questions where answers were fairly unanimous. About religious education at school: French people rated with 48% votes that religion should be taught at school as a “comprehensive education on the world’s religious beliefs and worldviews” and then voted by 25% that religion education should be “Experience-based by visiting various faith communities”. The wish for a proactive approach to interfaith issues was clearly confirmed by two other questions about overcoming religious differences (31% for an active approach) and promoting interfaith harmony (54% votes for an active approach).
Paris ended the event with a round table and warm discussions about the conference and the discussed questions. In Russia the discussion continued between UPF Moscow and UPF Siberia. In summary, it was interesting to see different views of people from different countries on the topic of interfaith harmony and it was valuable to discuss how joint actions can bring people from various religious backgrounds together. Other UPF projects with UPF Youth contribution during the Interfaith Harmony Week 2014 included a conference at the UN in Vienna on the topic “The Role of Religions in promoting a Culture of Peace” and UPF Youth UK sharing their thoughts on the topic “The role of Youth in promoting Interfaith Harmony in our Communities & Societies” in the House of Lords, London.
Summary of the Results of the Questionnaire to the Interfaith Harmony Week, Europe