UN World Interfaith Harmony Week prize presented to IHPS
The other winners of the prize are Wellington Interfaith Council, Wellington, New Zealand, and The Religion and Politics Forum, Tokyo, Japan.
Ambassador Mohammed El Kayed of the Embassy of the Hashemite (Jordan) in India presented the third prize of the 11th UN World Interfaith Harmony Week 2021 to Fr (Dr) MD Thomas, Director of the Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies (IHPS), at a simple function held at the embassy in New Delhi on Monday last. The award consisted of a citation and medal. The prize, approved, established and declared by the United Nations, has been sponsored and administered by King Abdullah II of Jordan.
“Unlike yester years, a mega event could not be organised for the award ceremony in Amman due to restrictions on the corona pandemic. So, this simple ceremony here at the embassy,” said the envoy.
The other winners of the prize are Wellington Interfaith Council, Wellington, New Zealand, and The Religion and Politics Forum, Tokyo, Japan. The awardees have been selected by a seven-member jury from out of 133 applications from over 1,020 events held in different parts of the world, which were processed by Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute of for Islamic Thought.
The award has come to the institute as against the diverse ways of celebrating the ‘World Interfaith Harmony Week 2021’ undertaken by the institute, in line with the declaration of the United Nations. Dr Thomas has committed his life for this cause.
The specific programmes that merited the award include ‘video message’ on the theme on youtube (InstituteofHarmonyandPeaceStudies), facebook, twitter and whatsapp; articles on blog and 3 websites and lectures on connected themes in 4 webinars.
The activities were oriented to ‘promoting awareness among the larger public as regards the need of interfaith harmony and social wellbeing as well as of the core values of all traditions of faith, ideology and culture’, all in line with the concept of the United Nations.
World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September 2010 by King Abdullah II of Jordan. Just under a month later, on 20 October 2010, it was unanimously adopted by the UN and the first week of February was declared as United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week.
The norms of the jury for the prize/s included ‘excellence of the efforts, consistent efforts over the years, collaborative spirit, overall impact of the events, consistence with the text of the UN resolution establishing the prize and the spirit of celebrating the world interfaith harmony week’. Father Thomas has been pursuing this mission for the last over four decades in diverse ways.
The prize came to the Institute as a surprise, because it did not intend to participate in the proposed scheme by organising any event, due to the constraints of the pandemic times. What have been considered worth the third prize were the interfaith initiatives of the Director of the Institute, while the other two organisations were selected for the group activities they organised.
Fr Thomas worked at the National Commission for Interfaith Relations of the Catholic community in India (CBCI) as National Director and Editor of an interfaith journal ‘Fellowship’ and Director of Institute of Religion and Culture, Ujjain. He also involved universities, colleges, teachers, all communities and all sectors of the society in the work of interfaith relations, leading to social harmony.