Today (third Sunday in January) is World Religion Day. Established in 1950 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, World Religion Day has been increasingly taken up in other countries - at first by national and local Bahá'í communities in different parts of the world, although it has also become an event widely recognised and keenly celebrated by people of other faiths too. The purpose of World Religion Day is to:
- bring together people of various faith communities
- celebrate the unifying power of religion
- promote inter faith understanding
- encourage religious leaders and adherents to acknowledge the similarities between their faiths and work together for the common good.
In the United States, 16 January is National Religious Freedom Day, officially proclaimed each year by an annual statement by the President of the United States. I can't say whether it's more than just a happy accident that these two dates are observed so close together, but hopefully, there's a mutual reinforcement of the positive message of the unifying power of religion, that it can illumine hearts and minds with its own positive light.
While there's no celebration of World Religion Day in Leicester today, the event at De Montfort University tomorrow (Monday 21 January) has been scheduled to recognise and tag on to World Religion Day. That’s definitely progress. When I've blogged about World Religion Day in previous years (see blog posts for 2010, 2011 and 2012) I've lamented the local neglect of what could be a very significant event for Leicester. DMU is holding the first public observance in Leicester of this annual occasion that I know of (although it's being billed as Celebrating Diversity on Campus: Religion or Belief Showcase to help make it more specific to the university).
There’s a good collection of tweets about World Religion Day, many of which show what's happening in other places around the world. Just search #worldreligionday. Our American friends may or may not know that today is also given over to a number of other "national days", including Buttercrunch Day, Cheese Lovers' Day, Penguin Awareness Day, Disc Jockey Day. There are clearly just too many of these days for the calendar to accommodate, so some of them have to bunch up and share. Today is also Buzz Aldrin's birthday. Now that's more like it!