World Religion Day: Celebrating our Unity
by Saphira Rameshfar,
member of the Bahá’í Community of New York City
“The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until, its unity is firmly established.” – Bahá’i Writings
To affirm the beauty, love and peace of all the world’s religions is the purpose of World Religion Day, established by the Bahá’is of the United States in 1950. The Bahá’i writings state that, “the gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of humankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion.” Inspired by this perspective, the Bahá’í community has been a vigorous promoter of interfaith activities from the time of their inception.
The scale of suffering, conflict and injustice on the planet today is arguably without parallel in human history. Against the backdrop of a world gripped by the fear of violent extremism in the name of religion, overwhelmed by mass migration, paralyzed by an unjust global economy that preys on the poor to feed the appetite of a wealthy handful, riddled with prejudice and corruption, and struggling to unite to mitigate a changing climate; communities of faith play a crucial role in unifying humanity.
A civilization befitting our humanity will not emerge through the efforts exerted by a select group of individuals, governments or even a network of international agencies. Rather, the challenge must be faced by all of humanity. Every member of the human family has not only the right to benefit from a materially and spiritually prosperous civilization, but also an obligation to contribute towards its construction.
That humanity constitutes a single people is a truth that, once viewed with skepticism, claims widespread acceptance today. The rejection of the legitimacy of deeply ingrained prejudices and a growing sense of world citizenship are among the signs of this heightened awareness. The diverse peoples of the world have the capacity to forge a coherent vision of society that can guide the advancement of our global civilization.
Religion offers an understanding of human existence and development that lifts the eye from the rocky path to the distant horizon. Because it is concerned with the ennobling of character and the harmonizing of relationships, religion has served throughout history as the ultimate authority in giving meaning to life. And when true to the spirit of its transcendent founders, religion has been one of the most powerful forces for the creation of new and beneficial patterns of individual and collective life.
Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’i Faith, stated that religion must play a central role in the evolution of human progress, and that “the fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race”. Bahá’is strive to “consort with all religions and nations with the utmost friendliness and love.” They recognize that the Prophet-Founders of the world’s religions bring the same life-giving Light to humanity and reveal the same eternal truths, representing the “changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”
On World Religion Day, Sunday 17th January 2016, we will affirm the valuable contribution faith makes to our individual lives and to humanity. We will affirm the divine origin and essential oneness of the world’s religions. We will affirm our respect for and our solidarity with them, and that “religion should be the cause of love and agreement, a bond to unify all mankind for it is a message of peace and good-will to man from God.” World Religion Day is now observed around the globe by many faith traditions with conferences, interfaith activities and prayer services.
All are welcome to join us in celebrating World Religion Day on Sunday, 17 January 2016, from 2pm to 4pm at the New York City Bahá’i Center. The celebration will highlight the essential harmony of the world’s religions. “So powerful is the light of unity,” Baha’u’llah says, “that it can illuminate the whole earth.”