World Religion Day Sunday, January 18 2 to 4 p.m. – Grand Bend Legion (Kevin Locke will also perform at the Huron Woods clubhouse Sunday night at 7 p.m.) Featuring Lakota hoop dancer Kevin Locke and the London Unity Choir. Clergy of local churches will offer readings and prayers for world peace. Refreshments served. Everyone welcome.
Gord and Josy Britton wouldn’t miss World Religion Day for anything. Currently in Ethiopia singing with Van Gilmer’s Bahá’í House of Worship Gospel Choir, the Brittons will return home just in time to celebrate the event’s fifth year in Grand Bend. “Every year we’ve had participation from the Grand Bend United Church, the Anglican church, the Catholic church, the Presbyterian church in St. Joseph, and the United church in Dashwood,” says Josy. “We’ve had representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities. To cover other religions, we’ve had to invite people from outside the area. The last two years we’ve had the princess from Kettle Point come and do a native prayer.” This year, organizers are especially proud to have American Lakota hoop dancer Kevin Locke as the guest of honour. “He’s an amazing individual,” Gord says. “He has such skill. His hoop dancing is unbelievable. What adds to its beauty is its symbolism.” “His hoops are in four colours: black, white, red and yellow,” Josy adds. “They represent the four races, four directions, four winds. He uses 28 hoops to show all sorts of symbols of renewal. He makes them into birds, butterflies, eagles, sun, moon, and stars. He shows changing seasons through the dance. He shows that everyone is each other’s brother and there can be unity.” Promoting unity is the main goal of the event, an initiative of the Bahá’í faith. The Brittons are members of this faith, and one of its principles is to build a peaceful world through the unity of mankind. “We have to start understanding and celebrating our diversity,” Gord says, “and World Religion Day promotes that unity in diversity. All these faiths and non-faith groups come together to celebrate in unity. “All of these religions share a golden rule, stated in different ways. Live together, respect each other and treat your neighbour as yourself. You don’t bomb your brother if you believe the world is one country and we are one human race.” The Brittons faced concern when they converted to the Bahá’í faith, but have found the community more welcoming as time has passed. “Some of our friends were worried that it was a cult or something,” Josy says. “There isn’t any fear anymore. People are surprised at how few Bahá’ís there are here because we’re quite an active group.” “We often focus on the divisions,” Gord notes, “but all the world religions come from the same source, and that’s God. God wouldn’t create competing religions. If they look closely enough, they’ll find a great deal of commonality in the spiritual teachings, but where the differences lie are in the social teachings. Social conditions change. We shouldn’t be judging religions on the social differences.” Ultimately, the Brittons believe we are all the same and looking for the same things in life. The key is to work to understand other cultures and religions, and events like World Religion Day help achieve that goal. “Understanding isn’t tolerance. It’s celebrating the fact that there’s something that connects us all. We’ve traveled to Israel, India, Africa, and elsewhere, and families are families. People wake up and care about their children and want to get on with their lives in a peaceful way. It’s not going to happen by accident, but by deliberate planning.” The event is free, and people of all beliefs are welcome to attend.