Since 1950 the third Sunday in January has been World Religion Day. I love the original purpose of this day being to show that spiritual principles underlying the world’s religions are harmonious, and that religions play a significant role in unifying humanity. This sounds absolutely true to me, because as far as I know religions know no borders and many religions, no matter how small, are practiced in countries all over the world.
Religion brings people and cultures from all over the world together and not just in a spiritual sense. Religion actually gets people travelling. Sometimes people overcome physical and financial barriers to go on a pilgrimage. In some cases religious pilgrimage has become so popular that non-religious people undertake it, like the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. Many people of all backgrounds and ages have done the Camino not to find God, but to find ‘themselves’. I’ve read different books about the Camino, I’ve seen movies about it and I’ve been to Santiago twice and to several places along the Camino. I always found the idea of walking it myself intriguing up until a few years ago. Perhaps it changed when my daughter was born and I’ve lost the need for a spiritual quest. Still I find Santiago a very beautiful and intriguing city and I love the vibe that the pilgrims bring to it. Also I wouldn’t mind walking parts of the Camino just because of the beautiful cities and surroundings.
Other ways that religion gets people travelling and in touch with each other through international exchanges and trips abroad organized by churches and religious institutions. Some religions enjoy growing popularity in the West. Buddhism has motivated many people from Europe and America to travel to Asia to study Buddhism and learn Buddhist practices since the last century.
Besides that there is a large number of people without any religious background who travel to holy and religious places, just to enjoy the beautiful buildings and cultural aspects religion has brought to those places.
Sometimes religion can be so unifying, that people who don’t speak a common language can communicate and get together through their religion. Perhaps religions can be seen as language too.