World Religion Day celebrants ponder diversity

Representatives from eight different religions celebrated the 62nd annual World Religion Day.

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Members of the Zoroastrianism faith share their religious beliefs with the audience (Photo: Erin Meagher).

Participants at a multi-faith event at Mount Saint Vincent University on Sunday said the occasion was a chance to reflect on their neighbours and ponder the general decline in religious belief.

More than 100 people of all ages filled the room and listened intently as the various religious groups performed songs, dances, readings and prayers.

Representatives from eight different religious traditions including Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Mi'kmaq, Muslim and Zoroastrian were on hand for the celebration.

Cantor Ari Isenberg, who is a member of the Jewish faith, spoke about what World Religion Day means to him.

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The Sunday Dhamma School Children, who are members of the Halifax Theravada Buddhist Community, performed two songs (Photo: Erin Meagher).

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Members of St. Thomas Baptist Church celebrate World Religion Day (Video: Erin Meagher).

 "It's an opportunity to reflect and to be reminded of the people with whom I share society and share this city," he said. "It's an opportunity to really learn, grow and be reflective."

With so many unique religions present around the world, it is important for people to come together and celebrate in unity.

"Today is incredibly meaningful for me because if only for two hours, we see the world through God's eyes," said Isenberg.

He said that today's society is becoming more and more multicultural and that it is really important "to know who your neighbours are."

Alexander Fraser, a member of St. Thomas Baptist Church in North Preston, experienced his first time taking part in a World Religion Day celebration.

"I was not fully expecting the diversity that I did find here," he said. "There were a lot of explanations on what each religion was about. I think that that's a good starting point for information on what's available."

According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of the Canadian population who attended religious services on a regular basis decreased in the 20 years leading up to the last census. In 2001, 21 per cent of Canadians 15 and over attended a religious survey once a week, compared to 30 per cent in 1985.

While Fraser acknowledges that fewer people have religious beliefs than they used to, he encourages them to be open to faith.

"For the majority of people in the world it seems that faith is vanishing," said Fraser. "I think that gatherings like this might prompt them to change, to access that deeper part of the person. You're not just physical and then you die, but you're also spiritual."

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States started World Religion Day in 1950. It falls on the third Sunday in January.

"The purpose of World Religion Day is to promote harmony and unity," said Emad Talisman, a student at the Mount and member of the Baha'i faith.

This is the second year that the Mount has hosted this celebration. The school itself has religious roots as the Sisters of Charity established it in 1873.

"World Religion Day is celebrated increasingly with events all over the world," said Talisman.

 

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