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Interfaith groups working to promote global harmony
As religious conflict heightens all over the world, interfaith organizations are stepping up to the plate to provide an example for peace and make a difference. - photo by Massarah Mikati
Heightened tensions between religious groups across the globe make it hard to imagine a time of peace between followers of different religions let alone that religion can foster that peace.

But faith-based service organizations, such as World Vision, are attempting to blaze a trail of peaceful coexistence and unity between Christians, Muslims and other religions in countries worldwide, particularly West Africa.

We dont compromise our own beliefs and values, nor do we require other faith traditions to alter theirs, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., wrote in Relevant Magazine. Instead, we build on what we share a commitment to save lives and promote peace, believing we have a divine duty to do so.

World Vision has worked to combat issues that plague the region, such as malaria, child trafficking, Ebola, HIV and AIDS, and violence during political elections.

But World Vision is not the only faith-based organization working to promote peace and collaboration between religious groups.

Project Amal ou Salam, for instance, works to help educate and develop Syrian kids so they can cope with trauma and envision a better future for their war-torn country. Part of this future, Nousha Kabawat wrote in the Deseret News National, is tolerance toward Christians in Syria.

There have also been global efforts to foster unity between Muslims and Jews, combatting anti-Semitism, Deseret News National reported. Some of these events included a multi-faith harmony program in Los Angeles, an interfaith meeting in Israel organized by the Interfaith Encounter Association and a documentary to help combat Holocaust-denial in some Middle Eastern countries.

And lastly, nation and international interfaith efforts to combat Islamophobia have been carried out by multiple groups, such as the Islamic Society of North America's Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances. The organization counters misconceptions and breaks down barriers through interfaith dialogue, social work with other religious groups and partnering with other organizations and coalitions.

While face-to-face human interactions are crucial to fostering peace between strangers from different communities, some argue that an effective tool that can be leveraged for good (though it is often channeled for bad) is technology.

Brian Pellot, director of global strategy at Religion News Service, will be discussing interfaith peace efforts through social media at the International Interfaith Conference in Kosovo next week.

While Pellot acknowledged negative outcomes of social media and the Internet such as hate speech and misrepresentation he said the negative can be countered and used against itself. For instance, the King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue is training religious leaders to combat violent extremism through social media, and Google is studying the use of technology to prevent radicalization of young people.

Yes, violent extremists can use social media to spread lies, recruit disenfranchised communities and indoctrinate disaffected and vulnerable individuals, but they dont hold a monopoly on these channels, Pellot said. Peace advocates can just as easily and effectively use social media to directly counter these messages of hatred and intolerance without stifling freedom of expression.

According to Stearns, this peace and harmony can be achieved by finding similarities and working together.

While holding on to our different beliefs about theology, we can still find common ground in what our sacred texts say about caring for the poor, he said. It is harder to condemn a group of people when you need them as partners.
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