World Religion Day, from "Religions of the World"

World Religion Day, observed worldwide on the third Sunday of January each year, is a Baha'i-inspired idea that has taken on a life of its own. In 2009, for instance, the Halifax (Nova Scotia) Regional Municipality in Canada celebrated its sixth annual World Religion Day in the Cathedral of All Saints, in recognition of which the mayor and councilors of the Halifax Regional Mu-nicipality issued a proclamation. In 2007, at the World Religion Day event hosted by the Entebbe Municipal Council of Entebbe, Uganda (situated on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake), participating religious leaders signed a joint declaration to establish the Entebbe Inter-Faith Coalition. The signatories pledged to use "the unifying power of religion to instill in the hearts and minds of all people of faith the fundamental facts and spiritual standards that have been laid down by our Creator to bring them together as members of one family."

{josquote}Your letter of September 30, with the suggestion that 'there should be one day in the year in which all of the religions should agree' is a happy thought, and one which persons of good will throughout the world might well hail. However, this is not the underlying concept of World Religion Day, which is a celebration of the need for and the coming of a world religion for mankind, the Baha'i Faith itself.{/josquote}

As these examples illustrate, World Religion Day is now observed internationally, its American Baha'i origins notwithstanding. The history of World Religion Day dates back to 1949, when the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States (the national Baha'i governing council) instituted an annual World Religion Day "to be observed publicly by the Baha'i Communities wherever possible throughout the United States." Then as now, the third Sunday of January each year was designated for this celebration. The first World Religion Day event took place on January 15, 1950, and was observed by Baha'i communities across the United States. The Baha'i Faith, among the younger of the independent world religions, emphasizes unity in the human community, and the inauguration of World Religion Day could be seen simply as a natural expression of the Baha'i focus on the unity of religions, races, and nations. However, interfaith association was not the exclusive, nor even the primary original purpose of World Religion Day. In 1968, the Universal House of Justice, the international Baha'i governing body established in 1963, wrote: "Your letter of September 30, with the suggestion that 'there should be one day in the year in which all of the religions should agree' is a happy thought, and one which persons of good will throughout the world might well hail. However, this is not the underlying concept of World Religion Day, which is a celebration of the need for and the coming of a world religion for mankind, the Baha'i Faith itself. Although there have been many ways of expressing the meaning of this celebration in Baha'i communities in the United States, the Day was not meant primarily to provide a platform for all religions and their emergent ecumenical ideas. In practice, there is no harm in the Baha'i communities' inviting the persons of other religions to share their platforms on this Day, providing the universality of the Baha'i Faith as the fulfillment of the hopes of mankind for a universal religion are clearly brought forth" (Lights of Guidance, no. 1710).

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Source: "World Religion Day" published in Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, Vol. 6, ed. J. Gordon Melton & Martin Baumann, pages 3138-3140
Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2010

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About the book: Religions of the World (Second Edition), in six volumes, brings together the scholarship of experts from around the globe. The encyclopedia offers entries on every country of the world, with particular emphasis both on the larger nations as well as profiles on religion in some of the world's most remote places (e.g. Antarctica and Easter Island). This collection is unique in that it is based in religion "on the ground," tracing the development of each of the 16 major world religious traditions through its institutional expressions in the modern world, its major geographical sites, and its major celebrations. Order it online from the publisher or amazon. See also ABC-CLIO ebooks.

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