Our World has hundreds of nations with thousands of cultures that stretch back into pre-history, and throughout all that time we’ve had countless religions rise to prominence. Whether you’re Hindu, Jewish, Catholic, Shinto, Buddhist, or one of a million other faiths, World Religion Day is your chance to share your culture with others and take an opportunity to learn from others about theirs.
World Religion Day is an observance initiated in 1950 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, celebrated worldwide on the third Sunday in January each year. Though initiated in the United States, World Religion Day has come to be celebrated internationally.
World Religion Day promotes inter-faith understanding and harmony by encouraging believers from different faiths to acknowledge, understand and accept the differences and similarities between the world’s many religions. The day also serves to celebrate religious oneness and the idea that the world is connected by all religions’ common, shared beliefs.
Here are five interesting facts about World Religion Day:
1. World Religion Day was first proclaimed by the Baha’i faith in the US in 1950. It has since been celebrated annually on the third Sunday of January with events, concerts, celebrations and inter-faith dialogue aimed at peace and understanding.
2. World Religion Day was first celebrated in Portland, Maine under the title of “World Peace Through World Religion.” Firuz Kazemzadeh hosted the talk in Eastland Park Hotel in October of 1947, since then the observance of this day has spread throughout the world with the center being held at various locations with strong authors, educators, and philosophers speaking about the importance of World Religions.
3. Sri Lanka went so far as to release a postage stamp honoring World Religion Day, with another issued by the Republic of Congo. The focus of this holiday is to spread awareness and knowledge of the thousands of religions practiced in the world today, and a sharing of tolerance and understanding between people of all faiths.
4. World Religion Day has been described as a “Bahá’í-inspired idea that has taken on a life of its own”, because its observance is no longer confined to the Bahá’í community, where it originally took shape.
Although observances of World Religion Day are still sponsored and supported by Bahá’í communities worldwide, Baha’i institutions such as the Universal House of Justice or the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States no longer play active roles in the promotion of events, apart from reporting on them. Instead, an increasing number of observances are independently organized by interfaith or multi-faith coalitions.
5. Initially a Bahá’í observance, World Religion Day was inspired by the Bahá’í principles of the oneness of religion and of progressive revelation, which describe religion as evolving continuously throughout the history of humanity.
It promotes these principles by highlighting the ideas that the spiritual principles underlying the world’s religions are harmonious, and that religions play a significant role in unifying humanity.