The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahás of the United States instituted the World Religion Day in the year of 1950, and it is observed annually on the third Sunday in January around the world. Despite its origins in the United States, the World Religion Day has grown in popularity among Bahá’s around the world.
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History of World Religion Day
The first observance, named “World Peace Through World Religion,” took place in Portland, Maine in October 1947 at the Eastland Park Hotel, with Firuz Kazemzadeh giving a discussion. In December 1949, observances in several localities around the United States were dubbed “World Religion Day” by local newspapers. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahás of the United States standardised it across the United States in December 1949 for a ceremony on January 15, 1950. It was also first observed globally in Australia in 1950, in two locations, and in Bolivia in 1951. By 1958, Bahás had accumulated notifications of events in a number of countries, some of which drew hundreds of people and others of which conflicted with race amity ideals. Meetings were observed in Laos in 1958, 1959, and 1960, and plenty of other countries’ activities. In the Netherlands, it was recorded in a number of cities in 1962.
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The Universal House of Justice, the elected council which serves as the head of the Bahá Faith, acknowledged in a 1968 comment that, instead of offering a “forum for all faiths and their emerging new ecumenical ideas,” the commemoration serves as “a occasion of the need for and the bringing of a world religion for mankind, the Bahá Faith itself,” as a means of clarifying the scope and purpose of World Religion Day.
World Religion Day has been called a “Bahá-inspired initiative which has evolved into a life of its own” because its commemoration is no longer limited to the Bahá community, where it began. Although Baha’i communities around the world continue to sponsor and support World Religion Day celebrations, Baha’i institutions like the Universal House of Justice and the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahás of the United States no longer actively promote events beyond reporting on them. Instead, interfaith or multifaith alliances are organising a growing number of observances on their own.
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