World Religion Day commemorated across Canada

Halifax children, youth, and the young-at-heart created a World Religion Day banner signifying world peace.Toronto, Ontario, 23 January 2008 (CBNS) — A number of Baha'i communities across Canada participated in events celebrating World Religion Day this past Sunday, January 20th. A wide variety of events were held for the purpose of stimulating interfaith understanding and religious harmony, including a well-attended gathering at a United Church on Canada’s east coast and a conference on a university campus on the west coast.

Halifax’s 5th Annual World Religion Day event was held at the St. Matthew’s United Church, a group which co-sponsored the event along with the Baha'i Community of Halifax. Over 350 people attended. One of the organizers, Deb Nicholson, said the purpose was, “to provide a venue to recognize and celebrate our commonalities, to promote harmony through unity. Each year people have moved increasingly closer.”

Halifax World Religion Day mass choir performing “Can You Hear” by composer Jim PapoulisKicked off by Samba Nova, a Brazilian group with African percussion, the event included Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i speakers, Zoroastrian and Hindu prayers, Brahma Kumaris meditation, Unitarian and Catholic choirs, an indigenous smudge ceremony with drumming, and even an interpretive dance set to sacred music by an African Baptist children, aged toddlers to teens. The concluding performance of “Can You Hear?”, a song of hope for a better world, featured four local choirs singing together in unison.

One aim of the event was to combat intolerance and to help build common ground between religions. This year at the reception held afterwards, “Audience members were invited to ask practitioners questions about their religion, and many did,” said Ms. Nicholson.

Lethbridge, Alberta's World Religion Day celebrationIn Victoria, on Vancouver Island, to honor World Religion Day the Campus Association for Baha'i Studies at the University of Victoria hosted a World Religions Conference on campus which attracted about 100 people. The event was supported by the Victoria Multifaith Society and UVic Interfaith Services.

Representatives included a Jewish Rabbi, Christian priest, Buddhist monk, and Baha'i youth were invited to offer prayers and blessings during the event. A keynote speech on the theme, “The Essential Unity of all Religions,” was presented by Todd Khozein of the Baha'i community. It was followed by questions and informal discussion. Khozein expressed the need for religion to play a more integral role in finding solutions to the increasing number of global crises spawned by sexism, racism, and nationalism.

Some of the Halifax World Religion Day musicians - Dr. Henry Bishop [Djembe], Jennifer Wyatt [Harp], Pam Mason [Acoustic Bass]“We need more authentic dialogue. None of us, religious leaders included, can claim to have a monopoly on truth,” said Dr. Khozein. “Historically, religion has been the strongest civilizing force, inspiring within entire populations the capacity to love. After all, the most natural thing for believers in the Creator to do, is to love His creation.”

Among the many World Religions Day events held across Canada, a number of them attracted the interest of local newspapers, with articles mentioning or featuring these events appearing in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Gatineau, Québec, and Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Dunnville, and North Bay, Ontario.

Originally established by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in 1950 and observed on the third Sunday in January, World Religion Day has since been adopted by many organizations and communities throughout the world.