World Religion Day

Previous Celebrations-
2007 News Article

World Religion Day Is An Example
of Peace and Understanding

by Carol Forsloff, Shreveport Times (2007)

“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” This is the declaration of Bahai's who were one of a number of religious groups participating in World Religion Day in Shreveport on Sunday, January 21. That about summed up the feeling throughout the entire time. It was a day that found Muslims embracing Jews, Mormons consorting with Hindus, and Baptists mingling with everyone in a spirit of goodwill. As born agains clapped and rapped in soulful singing, the Muslims joined in joyful response. It was the kind of happening that should take place every day, everywhere. And if it could, it just might change the notions of our differences and bring us together on the platform of our essential humanity. At least that's the declaration of those who hosted and attended the event.

Folks from every doctrinal view were on hand at the conference to enjoy each other's company and at the same time become informed. At the podium the verbal baton was passed from one speaker to another with good grace and brotherly support. There was no rancor, no ”can you top this,” no politicizing--- just what appeared to be a healthy, healing love-in, reflecting the theme that God embraces us all. Mark Stupka, the Eckankar panelist, spoke to the feelings of everyone, that we learn to love by experiencing it from our Creator.

The tone of the day's program began with the words “I won't harm you with words from my mouth; I love you, I need you to surive” from the song performed by the choir of the United Methodist Church of Shreveport. Chloe Hayward, assistant to the Mayor, welcomed everyone. Dr. Donald A. Webb was the keynote speaker who quoted from Ghandi that there were many causes one could die for but none one should kill for, an appropriate remark for the wars that continue to cause death for dogma differences throughout the world. He reminded everyone that we should translate our compassionate hearts into compassionate hands and emphasized that “your way may not be my way” but we are all on God's mountain.

The first of the day's panels discussed the topic "Religion and Health". The Christian Science group was represented by Valerie M. Thibaut who noted that her faith declares the relationship

between religion and science that can promote both physical and spiritual healing. Mark Stupka of Eckankar described the hallmark of his faith as direct experience of the Light and Sound of God and that through an individual's works that person can come into a greater realization of God's love. Kurshid Khan, the Muslim panelist, told the audience that Islam gave impetus to new discoveries in science, geography and the literary arts. He mentioned that Muslims believe that no one should stand between God and the believer. The minister of Unity Church, Rev. Joy Walker, reiterated the notion that we are all one in spite of our racial, culture and religious differences.

Panelists on the topic “Religion and Culture” included members of Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, Baha'i and Buddhism. Rev. Dr. Lyn Oglesby of the Unitarian Church spoke of her faith's recognition of the individual's search for truth in the cultural context. Rabbi Foster Kawaler spoke of the culture of Judaism, mentioned some of its tenets, and declared it essential that Jews be allowed to practice their beliefs and be left alone to do so. He reiterated the fact that they have often been persecuted and killed for the simple act of practicing their beliefs. The Baha'is, represented by John Mitchell, stressed belief in the oneness of mankind and religion and the necessity of cultural appreciation and acceptance as part of developing and maintaining that oneness. Larry Anderson, a Buddhism adherent, declared right intention and training of the mind as the most important tenets of his faith.

The end of the day brought Mormons, Baptists, and Tibetan Buddhists on a panel discussing “Religion and Humanity.” John Hodge, Baptist, Kalog Choling and Elder Ross Smith all spoke of their faith's concern for the poor and the needy as examples of their involvement with human concerns.

World Religion Day, an event celebrated yearly, was praised throughout the day by participants and visitors. Certainly if the comradeship and levels of understanding reflected by the attendees is any example of what can occur when people listen and learn amicably from each other, than indeed the hope of understanding, love and peace for everyone that was wished and prayed for is likely to happen.

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