Baha'is, others to unite in World Religion Day

Baha'is, others to unite in World Religion Day

By Kelly Ettenborough
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 15, 2000

Arizona's World Religion Day celebration Sunday is not about debate.

It's about reminding others that although people come from different backgrounds, they have a responsibility to be united and work together.

"More and more, we live in a society where our neighbors come in different colors. Whether we like it or not, we have to make a great effort to be united with our fellow human beings," said Lal Fernando, organizer of the activities. "The theme of religion is unity. Unfortunately over the years, we have not seen that in action in most cases. In some instances even, religion has contributed to warfare."

The Baha'i Faith began the celebration of World Religion Day 50 years ago. The faith teaches the unity of religions and the equality of men and women, and World Religion Day grew out of those beliefs.

Today, the day is celebrated in more than 80 countries, with some large national events. In 1985, Sri Lanka issued a stamp for the day.

The Valley's Baha'i community has grown to 1,500 people. This year will be the Valley's largest event to date and will include people from a variety of backgrounds. Baha'is and others have celebrations planned in other U.S. cities, but Fernando says he aspires to a national celebration for World Religion Day in the United States.

Fernando, a Baha'i and a business owner, has worked for 25 years in promoting World Religion Day around the world by coordinating the events through the Web from his north Phoenix home office.

Speakers on Sunday will share information about their faiths. They will represent Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Sikh, Baha'i and Ifa, a religion from western Africa.

The Rev. Larry Fultz of Church in the Valley in Phoenix will represent Christianity. Fultz sees this forum as an opportunity to dispel ignorance about other's beliefs and to build common bonds.

"The more exchange we can have the more we can readily understand how much we have in common," Fultz said. "If the religious community doesn't bring goodness and rightness to the community, who else is going to do that? If we are always fighting among ourselves, then certainly we can't help the community."

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