The unexpected blessing of winning the 2019 HM King Abdullah II prize for our work during the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week will help us to amplify the message of Interfaith Harmony in the world and will give us a platform for meaningful partnership on so many levels with those who work equally hard for the common purpose of peace on Earth.
Our Chairperson, Berry Behr, and the founder of Faith Hope Love Communities of Elsie’s River, James Ellman, travelled to Jordan to accept the prize. James is also a founding member of Cape Town Interfaith Initiative and is a current member of our Advisory Council.
Prayers for the City was started by Cape Town Interfaith Initiative some years ago, and in 2015 was anchored on the first Sunday in February by then Chairman Rev Gordon Oliver, in order to bring it into line with World Interfaith Harmony Week.
This year, instead of holding the Prayers in the City Centre we decided at the invitation of Faith Hope Love Communities to take the Prayers to the people. We chose a site in Elsie’s River that had been recently reclaimed by the community after it had become a crime hotspot. We walked from the Mosque to the site, symbolically supporting the people of Elsie’s River in their bid to take back their streets, and to bless the land that had been reclaimed. It was a humble event, held under a cloudy Cape Town sky, and we never for a moment expected it to receive such wonderful international attention.
The trip to Jordan was extraordinary.
For both Berry and James, spending Holy Week in the Holy Land was beyond anything we could have imagined. Every person we met was a gift, every new day was an anointing. There were so many moments of pure reverence, such as standing at the Citadel on top of one of Amman’s seven hills, listening to the call to prayer reverberate around the city. We felt as if we could almost touch the collective prayers rising up from the city of Amman, to heaven. How appropriate, seeing as the event that won us the prize was entitled Love of the neighbour – Our Prayers for our city. We visited the sacred site of the Baptism of Jesus, and the cave in which John the Baptist lived… We went to Petra, the legendary city carved into the pink sandstone rock and home to a series of powerful civilisations in its 3000 year history.
And then, of course, we went to the Palace. His Majesty was a warm and gracious host, encouraging us to continue our work and to keep talking about the message of interfaith harmony and its importance in the world today.
We returned home inspired, motivated and determined to redouble our efforts. Our earnest prayer is that we will be able to use our voice and our prize to create a sustainable platform for our own continued interfaith mission, and also that we will be able to encourage the many, many other grassroots organisations in our region to keep up their amazing, heart-centred work.
In Cape Town, Prayers for the City Leads to 1st Place Recognition for UN World Interfaith Harmony Week – Parliament of the World’s Religions, Blog, 22 April 2019
Elsie’s River Man wins royal peace prize – Cape Argus, 7 May 2019
Winners’ Speech at World Interfaith Harmony Prize Giving Ceremony