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  • Nigel Akuani

World Religion Day focuses on ‘Unity, Respect and Reverence’

Port Moresby: Unity, respect and reverence was the key focus behind the commemoration of the 2021 World Religion Day. An interfaith devotional gathering was held on 18th January 2021, at the Nature Park in Port Moresby. “The Golden Rule” was the theme of the gathering.

The commemoration, facilitated by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i in Port Moresby, had the participation of Sir John Cardinal Ribat KBE MSC, Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Port Moresby, and leaders from the mainline churches in Papua New Guinea.

Also present were representatives from the PNG Council of Churches;Ps Tau Kove, President of the Seven Day Adventist Central Papua Conference; Bishop Gundu Kagl of the Lutheran Church; Bishop Jacob Harry of the United Church; Mr. Kini Kila of the Evangelical Alliance; Head Imam Busaeri of Islamic Society of Papua New Guinea; Fr Giorgio Licini PIME, General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNGSI; Fr Joseph Vnuk, President of the Catholic Theological Institute; Brandon Zimmerman, Secretary for Ecumenical and Inter-Faith Dialogue of CBCPNGSI; Fr Ambrose Pereira SDB, Social Communications Secretary; media personnel, family and friends.

Facilitating and ensuring the smooth run of the day’s program was Mr Lahui Lovai, Communication Representative of the Papua New Guinea Council of Churches. Throughout the morning’s program representatives from the respective religious organisations were allotted time to read a selected passage from the sacred scriptures of their faith relating to the theme of the Golden Rule. Readings were taken from the sacred scriptures of Christianity, Baha’i Faith, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam.

According to Mr Lovai, the day’s program was an Inaugural Interfaith Devotional intended to bring together leaders and representatives of world religions all with the focus of observing the WRD theme for 2021. “The golden rule is a universal moral principle of treating others as we ourselves would wish to be treated. We hope this gathering will give each of us the opportunity to forge new friendships and understandings so that together we can contribute toward peace, unity and prosperity for our respective communities,” he said.

Describing the day as an achievement on a higher level, Cardinal Ribat, remarked at the possibility of hosting similar such events in the near future to bring unity between denominations and religions. “This is a first of its kind and these are the events that unite and create a sense of respect between all churches, and this needs to promoted more often,” he stated.

Mr Zimmerman said this was the start of something new and served as an opportunity to bring the different faiths together. “Christianity here in PNG has united the people, and though there might be divisions caused between denominations, this occasion is a time to re-establish unity between people of good faith,” he stressed.

Muslim representative, Imam Ahmed Deedat, explained how all religions dwelled and told of the same spiritual and moral teaching that promoted peace and harmony, and called for collaborations in the months ahead.

Ms Gezina Volmer, Director of the Baha'i Office of External Affairs in Papua New Guinea, recalled the day’s significance and said its essence was in creating unity, and that this event created a greater understanding and appreciation of inter-faith fellowship.

The provision of light refreshments was served following the concluding remarks that gave participants a chance to converse and display the spirit of friendship, respect and unity.

World Religion Day is celebrated around the globe in over 80 countries to foster inter-faith understanding and harmony amongst diverse people and beliefs, focusing on the common moral principles underlying all religious teachings and exploring the role of religion in society.

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