Reading a magazine recently, I ran across a reference to a
religious observance day I wasn’t familiar with, World Religion
Day, Jan. 16.
Reading a magazine recently, I ran across a reference to a religious observance day I wasn’t familiar with, World Religion Day, Jan. 16.
The Web site referenced is devoted to this holiday, www.WorldReligionDay.org. It notes that observance of this day was decreed in 1949 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the USA.
It is scheduled to occur on the third Sunday of January each year.
The aim of the day is to “foster the establishment of interfaith understanding and harmony by emphasizing the common denominators underlying all religions.” World Religion Day observances are “dedicated towards encouraging the leaders and followers of every religion to acknowledge the similarities of our sacred faiths,” agree on an approach to the challenges confronting humanity, and “see the whole earth as a single country and humanity as its citizenry.”
In 2004 there were several interfaith observances of this day in California: Santa Maria, Los Angeles and Moorpark, all in Southern California.
The nearest to us was in Cupertino, where the mayor issued a proclamation which she read at the worship service. Sponsored by the Baha’is of Cupertino, other faiths represented were Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Sikh and Islam. All gathered for prayers, devotions and music.
This year’s nearest observance of World Religion Day will be held in the Pacifica Publlic Library (northern coastal San Mateo Country) at 2pm. Speakers from many different faiths will address the theme “Service to Humanity” as illustrated by their own scriptures. For more information about this event call (650) 738-5980.
It is not surprising to discover World Religion Day was established by the Baha’i faith. Founded in Persia (modern Iran) in the 1860s, it is dedicated to the ideals of the oneness of God, the unity of all faiths, and the harmony of all people.
Today the faith includes some 6 million people in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide: some some 2,100 ethnic, racial and tribal groups.
The Baha’i follow a 19-month calendar of 19 in days each month, with four “leftover” days set aside for special observances.
They gather for worship on the first day of each month with a three part feast: devotional readings and meditations, administrative meetings and social events.
Although there are worship buildings in San Jose and San Francisco, South Valley Baha’is meet in members’ homes.
Baha’is believe God has at different times revealed himself through different prophets: texts revealed through Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Christ or Muhammad were all appropriate for their time, but replaced by “later revelations.” This teaching has led to extreme persecution of the Baha’is in Muslim countries.
The religion has a strict set of rules based on the “Book of Laws” given by Baha’u’llah, the founding prophet. Daily prayers are mandatory as well as fasting during the month of Ala (March 2-21).
Use of alcohol and narcotics are prohibited, as are premarital sex and adultery. Smoking is discouraged, marital partners must seek parental approval, and while voting is allowed, participation in party politics is prohibited.
Baha’is take great pride in their tradition of equality given to all, regardless of class, race, gender, or age – principals they hope to see practiced by a future world government.
For more information call 847-9881 (Gilroy) or 718-5582 (Morgan Hill) or check the Internet at www.bahai.org.