World Religion Day takes place on the third Sunday in January. The annual international event is the brainchild of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, which observed the first event in 1950. The aim of World Religion Day is to foster understanding between all religions, and some countries commemorate the day with special postage stamps. Regardless of where followers of faith are in the world, the event calls for them to observe the event by engaging in interfaith dialogue to highlight the role of religion in unifying humanity.
Origin of World Religion Day
After an announcement in 1949, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States observed the first World Religion Day on 15 January 1950. The event was initially for followers of the Baha'i faith to observe the day publicly regardless of their locations and, "Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship". Over the years, the event has expanded to encapsulate all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Rastafarians, Sikhs, and Native Americans.
Overview of Baha'i
Baha'i emerged in the 19th century in Persia, or Iran. The founder was Baha'u'llah, a Persian nobleman from Tehran. He began life in princely luxury, but left it behind to promote a message of peace and unity. The Baha'i faith follows three core principles, including unity of humankind, religion, and God. The belief within the faith is that there is only one God from which springs the spirituality of all religions. In addition, Baha'is believe that all humans are born equal and have the same duties and rights.
Aim of World Religion Day
During World Religion Day, members of all faiths across the globe are encouraged to reflect on the common spiritual foundations and goals of all religions. Understanding the similarities and appreciating the differences between religions and belief systems help the groups to understand each other. The aim of the event is to unite all faiths so that together they can live in harmony, ease suffering, and help humankind to create a better, more peaceful world.
Observing World Religion Day
One of the main ways that organisations observe World Religion Day is by holding interfaith events where leaders within several religions give lectures. Some of these events take place during services at spiritual centres, such as cathedrals. People also gather in homes or listen to proclamations by government officials. There are public meetings, panel discussions, and conferences that encourage people to talk and listen to those of other faiths to gain a better understanding of the tenets of all religions. Music, exhibitions, art, and food, as well as education and communication, all play a part in the event. Some schools take the opportunity to explore different world beliefs in classes.
Learning activities during World Religion Day
There are a number of ways that schools and organisations use World Religion Day to further people's understanding of faith. Learning the key features of religions is often one of the first steps. Then they find out more about festivals and celebrations, as well as the significance of holy places to several religions, for example, the importance of Jerusalem within Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. They also learn about texts, such as the Bible, and how faiths view modern social issues.
Stamps commemorating World Religion Day
To commemorate the event in 1985, Sri Lanka became the first country to issue a World Religion Day postage stamp. The stamp pictures symbols of eight religions. In 2007, the Republic of the Congo became the second country to issue a stamp. From the capital city, Brazzaville, the organisers launched a stamp that features a globe surrounded by the symbols of 11 religions on a vibrant yellow background. A red bar at the top of the stamp declares in French, "Dieu est la source de toutes les religions", which translates into English as, "God is the source of all religions".
How to buy items for faith groups on eBay
There is an abundance of items relating to religions and faith groups on rosary beads, malas, and religious pictures. By learning more about the world's faiths, the participants of World Religion Day aim to foster a greater level of harmony for humankind.