Nine international students from the College of Saint Elizabeth stepped onto the world’s stage on February 14, 2013, when they participated in the program entitled United for a Culture of Peace Through Interfaith Harmony at the United Nations in New York. The event, which is part of the World Interfaith Harmony Week, brought together international leaders from the diplomatic and religious communities to focus on the integral role religion plays in facilitating world peace. Vuk Jeremić, president of the 67th United Nations General Assembly, opened the program by addressing the 1,500-member audience. The speakers who followed included ambassadors from Kazakhstan, Philippines, Iraq, and from representatives of every major religion in the world.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for our students to see up front how a major governmental organization operates,” said Lenee Woodson, CSE director of international and multicultural affairs. “At CSE, we have a long history of inspiring our students to assume leadership positions, and there is no better place to witness leadership than at the United Nations. We are very fortunate to live so close to New York and to be able to take advantage of these opportunities.”
World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the work of the "Common Word Initiative" that started in 2007. It called Christians and Muslims to engage in dialogue around the simple commandments of "Love of God, Love of Neighbor." In 2010, His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan proposed that the UN observe a World Interfaith Harmony Week, centering around the same commitments with a slight change to include people of all faiths, beliefs, and those with no faiths or creeds, with the theme, "Love of the Good, Love of Neighbor." The UN adopted the proposal on October 20, 2010, and declared the first World Interfaith Harmony Week, which took place in 2011. In countries throughout the world, events echoing this theme take place.
The CSE students took part in the World Peace Flag Ceremony, each carrying one of the flags of the 193 UN member states. It was an experience they won’t soon forget.
Says Annie Hu, ’13, a CSE theology major from Malaysia who was thrilled to carry her country’s flag in the procession, “I felt a lot of national pride being able to raise my flag in a foreign country.”
She continued, saying, “I wanted to come to this event because I wanted to learn what religions have to share in creating harmony and peace in this fractured world.”
Added Veronica Mupazviriwo, ’16, a CSE business administration major from Zimbabwe, “I have always wanted to come to the United Nations, so I was really excited when the opportunity came. I was really touched that everyone came together to proclaim peace. I felt I was a new citizen of the world.”