World Religion Day, started by the Baha’i Faith in the 1940s, helps to build understanding across religious groups.

On January 15, different faiths across the world will celebrate World Religion Day. The key message behind such interfaith celebration is to show that all the major and minor religions and beliefs around the world have something in common, particularly when it comes to each faith’s core foundations. These commonalities eventually create that opportunity for everyone regardless of country, race or religion to unite as one and live in harmony.

This message has been reiterated by the Baha’i governing body in 2002 through an open letter addressed to world religious leaders. Part of the letter reads:

“that interfaith discourse, if it is to contribute meaningfully to healing the ills that afflict a desperate humanity, must now address honestly … the implications of the over-arching truth … that God is one and that, beyond all diversity of cultural expression and human interpretation, religion is likewise one.”

The interfaith celebration was initiated by the leaders of the Baha’i Faith in the United States. It first started as the “World Peace Through World Religion” forum in 1947 but was officially standardized and named as “World Religion Day” in 1949. In 1950, the Baha’i holiday crossed borders and started being celebrated internationally. Since 1950, it has always been observed on the third Sunday of January annually.

Australia, Bolivia, Laos and the Netherlands were among the first few countries to adopt the celebration. Sri Lanka produced its first World Religion Day stamp in 1985 and Congo did the same in 2007. In 2011, Ottawa became the first government to hold a government-sponsored celebration of the event.

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