World Religion Day

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World Religion Day is an annual event celebrated on the third Sunday in January, which this year, is the 21st of January.

I have heard about World Religion Day a few times in recent years. As a matter of fact, I was invited in the past to a couple of primary schools to give a talk about Judaism during the week leading up to World Religion Day, and I was told that on different days during that week, those schools invited representatives of different religions to tell the children a little about their religion.

I thought it was a nice idea to expose the children from a young age to the existence of various religions, cultures, and ways of life, but it was not until now, that I was asked to write this blog, that I looked more deeply into the history and meaning of World Religion Day.

So, what is World Religion Day; who created it, when, why, and how is it marked?

The idea of World Religion Day was introduced in 1950 by people from the Baha’i faith, based on the Baha’i principles of the oneness of religion, implying that all religions have a common core.

Over the years, World Religion Day has taken a life of its own, and is no longer considered a Baha’i event, but rather an international celebration, an opportunity for people of all faiths and none to learn more about each other, find the common grounds among religions as well as celebrate and respect their differences.

World Religion Day reminds us to stop and reflect, to take the opportunity to learn more about ‘the other’, the unknown, and in most cases to discover how much we have in common. Moral values, folk stories, expressions and sayings, food, music, symbolism, traditions, rites of passage. All religions evolve around such central values. If we create the opportunity to speak in a safe environment, where we can build trust and respect, where we can listen to each other and try to understand, we can learn to appreciate each other better. We do not have to agree on everything, yet we can accept and even celebrate some of these differences that make life more interesting and varied, within the oneness of humanity.

This year, among the events planned for World Religion Day, is a Vigil for Peace in the World. How apt it is to come together, in the company of others from all faith backgrounds and none, whether we know them or not, to express our wish for peace. After all, a core value of all religions is Peace, Shalom, Salam, Paz, Pace, Paix, Frieden… and please add in your mind and heart your wishes for peace in other languages that are not listed here.

People across the world mark World Religion Day in different ways, so this year, you can choose your way. Whether you reflect on your own, organise a multi-faith gathering, or get together with friends to learn about other religions, what is important is to remember that we are all human - and that unites us. We all have feelings - and that makes us equal. We all wish to be respected - and that should be our common aspiration.

There is a well know expression Love Your Neighbour as Yourself. In other words; Do not do to others what you don’t want done to you. So let us all treat each other the way we wish to be treated, with respect. I may be too simplistic, naïve, or idealistic, yet this is what I think World Religion Day is all about, a reminder of our shared humanity, which should be nurtured.

Iris Segall


Posted in: Uncategorised


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