• Allison Guy

Happy World Religion Day! World Interfaith Harmony Week Coming in February

Because religious beliefs are so deeply personal and important to individuals, they are often a cause of conflict between people groups around the world. However, there are two observances that work to establish harmony between people of diverse religious backgrounds: World Religion Day and World Interfaith Harmony Week.

World Religion Day was instituted by the Baha'i faith in 1949 when the National Spiritual Assembly of Baha'is of the United States created the observance to be celebrated by Baha'i communities in the U.S., according to Christopher Buck's Religious Celebrations.

The Baha'i House of Worship for North America in Wilmette, IL

The purpose of World Religion Day is to "call attention to the harmony of spiritual practices and the oneness of the world's religions and to emphasize that world religion is the motivating force for world unity," as the Baha'i Blog explains.

World Religion Day is usually celebrated on the third Sunday in January where it was first observed on January 15, 1950. This year, it is being celebrated on January 17, 2021.

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However, according to the Baha'i Blog, some groups, especially in the U.S., celebrate World Religion Day at another time because the third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

World Religion Day graphic

In addition to World Religion Day, there is also World Interfaith Harmony Week. The United Nations General Assembly established this holiday in 2010 "as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith," as the United Nations website states.

World Interfaith Harmony Week began as a result of "A Common Word" initiative, which called for peace between Christians and Muslims and pointed out their common Commandments of Love of God and Love of Neighbor, as per the World Interfaith Harmony Week website.

This holiday is celebrated during the first week in February. It will be observed February 1-7 this year. The World Interfaith Harmony Week website recommends celebrating the holiday through hosting interfaith events such as community work, bazaars/fairs, watching a movie, and making a community interfaith declaration.

World Interfaith Harmony Week graphic

Each World Interfaith Harmony Week has a different theme. Previous themes include "Tolerance, Reconciliation and Forgiveness" (2014), "Building Bridges across Boundaries" (2016), and "Sustainable Development Through Interfaith Harmony" (2019).

Though there are many different faiths across the world, the celebrations of World Religion Day and World Interfaith Harmony Week show that religion can be not only a dividing force but also a uniting force, as well.

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