World Religion Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of January every year, meaning the next celebration day will fall on Sunday 15th January 2023.
World Religion Day is celebrated to:
- Show respect to other religions
- Treat each other with understanding
- Try and make the world a better place for everyone
In the world today, there are hundreds of countries and thousands of cultures which span back to the dawn of humanity, and in that time, we have seen many different religions rise and fall. Many have defined us as humans, created our cultures, and been instrumental in shaping our history. World Religion Day is a day to come together as one unified presence, celebrate everything that is good about faith, and promote tolerance and understanding, regardless of people’s current faith.
History of the day
When listing the major religions of the world, most people could list Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Sikh and Jewish religions in their top few religions. Others might acknowledge the Spiritualists, Rastafarians and Pagans, or branches of Christianity such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, or perhaps the Zoroastrians too, but none of these are responsible for starting the tradition of World Religion Day, which was actually initiated in 1950 at a National Spiritual Assembly of a relatively new religion, called Bahá’i.
Followers of the Bahá’i faith can be found in many different locations around the world and they work to improve their own lives and “contribute to the advancement of civilization”. Started in the mid 1800s, Bahá’í beliefs support the idea of the oneness of God, the oneness of religions, and the oneness of humanity. They believe that God has sent a succession of Divine Messengers, known as Manifestations of God, to educate and guide humanity, and that these messengers have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, and, in more recent times, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. They have a deep respect for nature as an expression of the Divine and believe that humanity is an ever-advancing civilisation where spirituality and the material world are interlinked, advancing together on a path to know God.
Throughout history, many wars have been fought in the name of religion, and some are still raging today, but World Religion Day seeks to eradicate this intolerance, promote peace, and share some ideas about different religions and cultures so there are plenty of ways that you can get involved in your setting.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Learn more about some of the world’s religions
If you have people of different faiths in your setting, why not invite their parents or religious leaders into your setting to explain some of the basic ideas behind a few different religions. You could look at the similarities between the faiths such as whether they have a main prophet or leader, or a main book of scriptures such as the bible or the Quran.
Share a meal
Many religions and cultures have special food that they eat on feast days, so you could organise a shared meal whereby people bring in one plate of food that could be associated with their own religion or a different one. Ideas could include things like hot cross buns (for Christianity), noodles (for Taoism) or honey, yoghurt and dates (from the Quran).
Create a religion map of the world
You could create a map of the world showing where each of some of the main religions began or what is the dominant religion in that country today. You can see an interactive map here which has some notes for teachers on how to use it too and there is a good interactive site here, which allows you to filter the main information on 81 world religions such as the founder, geographic origin, and thoughts on the after life. There are a lot of age-appropriate videos on YouTube which explain about some of the major religions using song and animation too.
Tell creation stories from different religions
Children love stories, so why not tell them some of the different creation stories from various religions across the world. You could tell them a different story each day at storytime and remember that there are many stories out there which may not receive the same prominence as others, but which are just as interesting. Visit list25.com for a list of 25 different creation stories including those of Japan, Sumeria, and the Navajo.
Set up a prayer or hope tree
You can make a 3-dimentional tree from old branches, taped or tied together at the bottom, or use a shop-bought tree, or make a 2-dimentional wall display. The idea is that the children write (scribe for them if necessary) or send a wish to their God or the universe, or just a message of hope. You can use different coloured shapes of paper such as hearts, crosses, or other relevant shapes and colours to write the messages on, then hang them on the tree.
Learn some songs associated with different religions
Christians sing carols and have hymns, but what do followers of other religions do when it comes to music and dancing? Many Native American religions, such as that of the Cherokee tribe include rituals such as rain dances to ask their gods for rain. You could teach the children how to do a rain dance and although not strictly from a religion, you can find a fun tutorial here for an age-appropriate Bollywood rain dance. Alternatively look out some children’s songs on YouTube for different religions or religious festivals and teach them to the children.
Visit some different places of worship
There are lots of different places of worship that are open to the public, from churches to Hindu temples and mosques. Why not look around at your local area and see where you can take your children. You will have to investigate opening hours and may have to seek special permission to visit, and of course, remember to do
your risk assessments too.
Remember, World Religion Day is about tolerance, respect and trying to make the world a better place for all of humanity, no matter what religion people are, or whether they have any religion at all. So spread the word because it’s never too early to teach people to respect and be kind to each other. And whatever you do, send us your images and stories to email@example.com to let us know what you’ve been up to.
Resources and further information