The Role of Interreligious Initiatives in Reconciliation and Peacebuilding
February 2, 2023 – 11:00am – 12:30pm EST

The Journalists and Writers Foundation and its Global Interfaith Partners organized a series of events during the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2023, an annual event observed during the first week of February each year (1-7 February), after the UN General Assembly designation in 2010. Recognizing the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people, this initiative entails hosting interfaith harmony events over the period of 7 days. The main purpose is to build bridges across the globe and spread the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill among the different faiths around the world.  

The Journalists and Writers Foundation, in partnership with Peace Islands Institute New York, co-organized a virtual panel discussion to discuss the Role of Interreligious Initiatives in Reconciliation and Peacebuilding on February 2, 2023, at 11:00am EST. 

Around the world, interfaith initiatives carried out by various civil society organizations, sometimes also promoted by governments or international organizations, help to establish networks of reconciliation and containment in contexts of conflict and often establish the necessary dialogues for peace building. This panel intended to shed light on the work that various interfaith leaders are doing on the ground to create communities and environments of peace.

Date/Time: February 2, 2023 – 11:00am – 12:30pm EST
Organizers: Journalists and Writers Foundation, in partnership with Peace Islands Institute NY

Rabbi David Shlomo Goodman (Israel)
Fellow at KAICIID, Rabbinical Seminar of Beit Midrash Harel in Jerusalem
Dr. Mduduzi Xakaza (South Africa)
Chair, Nazarene Scripture Research Institute

Emre Celik (USA)
Executive Director, Peace Islands Institute NY
Dr. Amarbir Singh (India)
Representative of Akaal Purkh Ki Fauj (APKF)
Tsering Youdon Lama (Nepal)
Student, Pokhara University

Dr. Rajendran Govender, Social Cohesion Advocate (JWF)
Nancy Falcon, Interfaith Dialogue Expert (JWF)


On February 2, 2023, this online event gathered a very diverse global audience, more than 500 people from all over the world. The speakers stressed the importance of religious leaders themselves as agents of peace. Each religion carries in its bosom the wisdom, the teaching and the principles to build peace together. The actors and religious leaders agreed that it is important to know our identity, our origins to know our own religious cosmovision and not to give way to ignorance, a source of future conflicts and enmity. In each of our native languages the word peace is present and central in our sacred texts.

Young people and adults are on the same path to build peace, it is important to walk together with the youth because it will be the young people who will carry the flag of the transformation of the world in the future. One of the participants asked about the responsible use of technology by young people, and the panelists responded that, in this sense, the use of technological tools in favor of peace is crucial. 

In conclusion, the panelists agreed to work together to continue building peaceful paths in different parts of the world. Another participant asked how members of different religious traditions can work together for peace and keep their own identities alive in the process, and the panelists emphasized the importance of dialogue and working together from a consolidated identity of their own. Each religious tradition carries a different richness, and this is what has to be brought into play, through difference peace is built.

One of the participants shared the following statement: 

This platform for interfaith dialogue was very valuable and that there should be more of these events so that there can be more peace and harmony in the world.”

The Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) hosted a series of events to mark the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2023. This year, Dr. Rajendran Govender from South Africa and Mrs. Nancy Falcon from Italy/Argentina, Advisory Board members of the JWF, coordinated and participated in several programs to commemorate the WIHW. Many people benefitted from these series of events and several stakeholders was involved.

Day 1 - (February 1, 2023)

The program commenced on day one, 1 Feb 2023, where Dr. Govender visited Ground Zero in Manhattan, where he did a video recording on the importance of promoting peace and harmony in the global community. This was shared on all the social media platforms of the JWF and was viewed 1,336 people via Twitter globally.    LINK TO TWEET

Day 2 - (February 2, 2023)

On Day 2, both Dr. Rajendran Govender and Mrs. Nancy Falcon moderated a virtual Interfaith Harmony panel discussion with the theme, “The Role of Interreligious Initiatives in reconciliation and peacebuilding”. The panel comprised leaders from different religious denominations, which included Christianity, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, and African Traditional religion. There were over 500 online participants. The discussions were robust, relevant, and very inspiring and elicited positive responses from the online attendees who hailed from many parts of the world. One of the positive outcomes of the panel discussion was a call for more of these events, which has a great potential for promoting greater religious understanding and tolerance.

Day 3 - (February 3, 2023)

A delegation from the JWF, including Mr. Mehmet Kilic, President of the JWF and Dr. Rajendran Govender, Advisory Board Member of the JWF participated in the Opening of the World Interfaith Harmony Week event on “Working together to achieve peace, gender equality, mental health and well-being and environmental preservation” joined by over 200 delegates and representative of different religious faiths from different parts of the world. The main objective of the gathering was to bring key people together to promote peace, understanding, and reconciliation. It was hoped that the attendees would go back to their respective constituencies and disseminate the information obtained from this gathering. The delegation from the JWF met with religious leaders and exchanged ideas to enhance sustainable peace through interfaith dialogue.

The JWF Interfaith Committee met with the World Interfaith Leaders at the United Nations in New York; Imam Beytullah Colak, Imam Shamsi Ali, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Salwa Kader, Ralph Kader, Dr. Rajender Govender and Nirmala Govender.

In the evening, a dinner was arranged with guests that participated in an intercultural and interreligious discussion in an informal setting. A platform was created to share some insights on how different programs can be arranged to promote peace and harmony. The objectives of WIHW were also discussed in great detail.

Day 4 - (February 4, 2023)

The delegation of the JWF was invited to an interfaith dinner by a family in New Jersey. A traditional Hindu dinner was held at an Islamic home. A traditional Indian Hindu cuisine was prepared and was complimented by a cultural program featuring classical Indian music, screening of a Bollywood movie, and the sharing traditions of Islamic and Hindu religious traditions and religions. The main objective of this program was to show how homes can be opened to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue. It is a way of strengthening relationships at the grassroots level.

Day 5 - (February 5, 2023)

An interfaith family dinner was hosted, featuring guests from different cultural and religious groups including South Africa, Indian, Turkish, and Greek backgrounds. Following the dinner intensive discussions were held on how intercultural and interfaith dialogue which is the main objective of the WIHW can strengthen relations between different people.

Day 6 - (February 6, 2023)

In the morning, the delegation from the JWF visited Pioneer Academy, a K-12 grade school in New Jersey. Dr. Rajendran Govender talked to a group of 175 high school students (grade 9-12), teachers, and staff members. The topic of discussion was “Becoming a Global Citizen and Building Peaceful and Inclusive Societies through intercultural and interfaith dialogue”. The speech was well received and during the Q and A session the students engaged the discussion with thought provoking questions pertaining to contemporary global issues that were impacting negatively on global peace. Dr Govender used the example of Malala Yousufzai and Greta Thunberg whose actions and presence at the United Nations paved the way for the youth becoming responsible global citizens. 

The delegation visited the EDEP Academy in New Jersey, which provides a holistic education that blends inherited Islamic tradition with the Western educational norms and values. The school provides quality education and guidance in Islamic studies without steering away from the normal state curriculum. An opportunity was created for Dr. Rajendran Govender to address the principal and staff of the academy to share some insights on the importance of World Interfaith Harmony Week and how this could be used to prepare students to becoming great leaders of peace in a cosmopolitan society like New Jersey. 

The JWF delegation visited Peace Islands Institute in New Jersey that promotes peace, love, respect, humanity, integrity, welfare, and understanding. The delegations discussed the main objectives of the World Interfaith Harmony Week and how the Institute can conceptualize and implement programs that can add more value to their work in promoting peace and harmony. Some recommendations were given to fast track this process.

Day 7 - (February 7, 2023)

On the last day of the World Interfaith Harmony Week, a dinner was hosted by the Peace Islands Institute of New York. This engagement provided a wonderful opportunity to share insights and to develop programs in keeping with the objectives of WIHW. It was clear from the discussions that the WIHW was an important catalyst and provided a great platform for promoting peace and understanding in the global arena.