Religions in Australia
One way to help build interfaith harmony and friendship is to send along your greetings to people of another faith when they are celebrating Holy Days or Festivals.
Here are some key Holy Days along with an appropriate greeting for the occasion.
Guru Gobind Singh's Birthday - Sikh
5 January 2017
Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth of the great masters of Sikhism, succeeding his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, in 1675 at the age of nine. He was born in Patna Sahib in India in 1666 and died in 1708. Guru Gobind Singh is perhaps most known for two things: introducing the five K's to Sikhism, five physical symbols that indicate the wearer has devoted their life to the Guru; and for being the last human Guru.
The five K's are kesh (uncut hair), kara (steel bracelet), kanga (wooden comb), kaccha (cotton underwear) and kirpan (steel sword). Each of these elements are symbolic of a variety of meanings in the life of a Sikh.
Before Guru Gobind Singh's death, he named the Sikh sacred text, Guru Granth Sahib, his successor. Sikhs treat the Guru Granth Sahib with the same honour and respect they would a human guru.
On the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, you can wish your Sikh friends and neighbours 'Greetings on this Holy Day' or 'May you be blessed by the Guru'.
Holi - Hindu, Sikh
13 March 2017
Holi, named for the destruction of the evil Demoness Holika, is a festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and others. On the day before Holi (known as Holika Dahan), bonfires are lit, symbolic of the one that destroyed Holika and from which Prahlad (a devotee of the Hindu God Vishnu) was miraculously saved.
It is a very joyous festival. People greet each other by applying coloured powder on their faces and embracing them.
The date for Holi is set by the lunar Hindu calendar. It falls on the last full moon day of the month Phalguna, and signifies the end of winter and the coming of the spring.
On the occasion of Holi, you might greet your Hindu and Sikh neighbours with ‘A Happy and Blessed Holi’.
Naw-Ruz - Baha'i
20-21 March 2017
For members of the Baha'i faith, one of the most significant festivals is the celebration of Naw-Ruz (pronounced naw-rooz), or New Year. For nineteen days leading up to Naw-Ruz (constituting the Baha'i month of `Ala'), Baha'i adherents observe a sunrise to sunset fast.
The Baha'i calendar features nineteen months, each of nineteen days duration. The months and days are named after nineteen attributes of God. The first of the nineteen is the Arabic word 'Baha', translated as something similar to 'glory'. New Year, being the first day of the first month becomes the 'Baha' day of the 'Baha' month. In this way, the first day of the first month (New Year) symbolises the most glorious name of God.
On this day, your Baha'i friends and neighbours would appreciate the greeting 'Happy Naw-Ruz'.
Passover - Jewish
10-18 April 2017
Of all the Jewish festivals, Passover or Pesach is perhaps the most familiar to Christians, because its origins are told in the book of Exodus, with the name of the festival derived from the moment when God ‘passed over’ the Jewish homes when inflicting the 10th plague on the people of Egypt. Following the 10 plagues, the Jews were freed from slavery.
On the first night of the Passover, Jewish families gather to share the Seder meal. The word Seder comes from the Hebrew word meaning ‘order’, and refers to the ordered ritual of the meal.
Passover begins on 15th day of Nisan and ends on the 21st day of Nisan.
On this day, you can share the greeting 'Chag Pesach Sameach' or 'Happy Passover' with your Jewish friends
Ridvan - Bahai
20 April-1 May 2017
Ridvan (pronounced REZ-wan) is a 12 day festival observed by adherents of the Baha'i faith. It is known as the "King of Festivals". It commemorates the announcement of his prophethood made by the founder of the faith, Baha'u'llah, in 1863. The festival begins, in fact, at sunset on 20th April.
The word 'Ridvan' means 'good pleasure' in Arabic. It has also come to be accepted as meaning 'paradise'. Ridvan was the name Baha'u'allah gave to the Najibiyyih Garden in Baghdad; the Garden being the place he inhabited for 12 days prior to his imposed exile to Istanbul. The most holy days of the festival are held to be the first, nineth and twelfth days, on which work is prohibited.
During Ridvan you might like to wish your Baha'i friends 'Happy Ridvan'.
Vesak Day - Buddhist
10 May 2017
Also known as Buddha's Birthday, Vesak Day is celebrated by Buddhists of all traditions across the world. It marks the Birth, Enlightenment and the Great Passing Away of Gautama Buddha representing the Buddha and His universal message of peace, love and compassion. Vesak offers Buddhists an opportunity to reflect on the life and teachings of the Buddha.
The exact date of Vesak varies according to the various lunar calendars used in different traditions. For example, in countries practicing Theravada Buddhism, and following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on the full moon Uposatha day (typically the 5th or 6th lunar month). The date varies from year to year in the Western Gregorian calendar but falls between April and May.
Traditional and cultural practices include gathering at temples, the lighting of lights and candles, early morning chanting of the Buddha's teachings (sutras) led by monastics, listening to talks delivered by monastics, construction of flower shrines and the symbolic bathing of the Buddha image with perfumed water, abstinence from eating meat, sharing food with the poor, visiting and making donations to charitable institutions, and ceremonial release of small animals or caged birds to symbolise humanity and compassion.
On Vesak Day, your Buddhist friends and neighbours would appreciate the greeting 'A Peaceful & Joyful Vesak'.
Eid ul Fitr - Islam
26-28 June 2017 (Ramadan 27 May-25 June)
Eid ul Fitr is the Muslim Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. It marks the end of Ramadan, Ramadan being a month of fasting, and one of the five pillars of Islam and is celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving to God, as well as feasting and gift giving.
A common greeting during this holiday is the Arabic greeting 'Eid Mubarak', which means 'Blessed Festival'.
Raksha Bandhan - Hindu
7 August 2017
During the month of August, the Brahma Kumaris celebrate the festival of Raksha Bandhan in a unique way. It is a time of deep meditation and reflection. Raksha Bandhan marks a renewal of commitment to a spiritual lifestyle, with a focus on God.
During the festival of Raksha Bandhan, your Brahma Kumaris friends would appreciate a silent greeting of peace, expressed through the eyes.
Eid Al Adha - Islam
2-4 September 2017
Eid al-Adha is the "Festival of Sacrifice" or "Greater Eid". It is celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to God. Eid al-Adha annually falls on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hijja of the lunar Islamic calendar. The festivities last for 4 days.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated at the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which is observed by Muslims as one of the five pillars of Islam.
A common greeting during this festival is the Arabic greeting "Eid Mubarak", which means "Blessed Eid".
Rosh Hashanah - Jewish
21-22 September 2017
The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is celebrated on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishri (the seventh month).
The two-day festival is a time to reflect on the mistakes of the preceding year, and to make plans of a better life for the coming year. Work is not permitted during Rosh Hashanah, with much of the first day spent at synagogue. The extended service held on that day includes the observance of the sounding of the shofar (ram's horn trumpet).
Greet your Jewish friends and neighbours during Rosh Hashanah with the Hebrew words "L'shana tovah" ("for a good year").
Diwali - Hindu
19 October 2017
Diwali (or Deepawali, meaning 'row of lamps') is a five day festival, which holds meaning for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Its name is derived from the practice of decorating homes using oil lamps to symbolise the triumph of good over evil and the removal of darkness. Diwali is a joyous occasion, holding various meanings for the three faiths.
Diwali falls on new moon day of the month Karthik of the lunar Hindu calendar. It generally falls between mid-October and mid-November.
During Diwali, your Hindu, Sikh and Jain neighbours would appreciate the greeting 'A Happy and Joyful Diwali'. It is also traditional to present sweets as a gift.
Guru Nanak Dev's Birthday - Sikh
4 November 2017
Observed by the Sikh community is the holy day of the Guru Nanak Dev's Birthday. Guru Nanak Dev was the first of the ten great masters of Sikhism, born in 1469 and dying in 1507 at the age of 69.
Being the pioneer of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev brought about many reforms in India during his time. He vehemently denounced the Caste system, pronouncing rather that all humans were created equal. He spoke of gender equality and gave women equal rights. He negated the custom of Satti, which required that a widow burn on her husband's funeral pyre. He also confronted the ruler of India on the topic of forced religious conversions. All Sikh Gurus became Defenders of Faith.
On the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev, you can wish your Sikh friends and neighbours 'Greetings on this Holy Day' or 'May you be blessed by the Guru'.
Chanukah - Jewish
13-20 December 2017
The Jewish festival of Chanukah (also known as the Festival of Lights) is celebrated on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. As the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar cycles, the date when expressed in the Gregorian calendar changes every year. It is celebrated for eight days. The word Chanukah means 'dedication' in Hebrew.
The festival is named such because it is celebrated in remembrance of the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem brought about by the Maccabean revolt in 2nd Century BCE.
On December nights, one can see through the windows of Jewish homes, small flickering candles set in an eight branched candelabra (the chanukiah) proclaiming a miracle of redemption performed long ago.
During Chanukah, you might like to wish your Jewish friends 'Chag Chanukah Sameach' or 'Happy Chanukah (Hanukkah)'.
The Department of Social Services has a full list of cultural and religious days celebrated in Australia.
*Note that Jewish, Islamic and Baha'i holy days begin at sundown on the previous day. Certain Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic holy days cannot be definitely determined in advance as they begin when the new moon is sighted.
Religions in Australia
Through this process, our own Christian identity is extended, enlarged and enriched by God's gift of the other.
Background and Statistics
Cultural Diversity in Australia - a report from the Australia Bureau of Statistics on the cultural and religious demographics of the Australian population.
Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century - a project of the Human Rights Commission, this paper researched and documents the general issues and concerns of religious and non-religious communities in Australia.
One way to help build interfaith harmony and friendship is to send along your greetings to people of another faith when they are celebrating Holy Days or Festivals. The following is a non-exhaustive list of some key Holy Days along with an appropriate greeting for the occasion. Read more
This Glossary of Religious Terms is from P. Hughes and S. Bond Australia's Religious Communities Second Edition, Christian Research Association, Melbourne. Reprinted with permission. Read more
Major Religions in Australia
Below are links to the websites of key national organisations for many of the major religions in Australia, in order to gain information directly from those organisations.
Brahma Kumaris Australia
Glossary of Religious Terms
This Glossary of Religious Terms is from P. Hughes and S. Bond Australia's Religious Communities Second Edition, Christian Research Association, Melbourne. Reprinted with permission.
Abdu'l-Bahá - Eldest surviving son of Bahá'u'lláh. He was the designated successor of Bahá'u'lláh and the authorised interpreter of his writings from 1892 until his passing in 1921.
Ayyám-i-Ha' - Intercalary Days. The four days (five in a leap year) before the last month of the Bahá'í year, which is the month of fasting. They usually fall from 26 February to 1 March. This is a time of gift-giving and charity for Bahá'ís.
Bahá'í - A follower of Bahá'u'lláh; of, or pertaining to, Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.
Bahá'í calendar - The Bahá'í calendar begins in 1844. Based on the solar year of 365 days, each year is divided into nineteen months of nineteen days with four intercalary days (five in a leap year) called Ayyá'm-i-Ha. New Year's Day falls on the spring equinox (usually 21 March).
Bahá'í House of Worship - Every Bahá'í House of Worship (Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, lit. "dawning-place for the praises or mention of God") has nine sides. The display of pictures or statues and the use of musical instruments within its walls is forbidden: only the human voice may be used to sing, chant, or read the Word of God as recorded in the scriptures of the world's religions.
Bahá'í Studies - Study of the history, teachings and philosophy of the Bahá'í Faith, and their application to current social issues.
Baha"u'lla'h - Prophet-founder of the Bahá'í Faith, who is considered by Bahá'ís to be the Manifestation of God and His messenger for this day.
Centre of Learning - A regional board which provides educational programs for the development of knowledge, spiritual insights and skills for service in participants while allowing them to become active agents of their own learning. All courses include the following three components: the Creative Word of God, participatory methods, and a spiritual and disciplined atmosphere.
Covenant - The Covenant is an instrument provided by Bahá'u'lláh to protect the unity of the Bahá'í community after his passing. In his Will and Testament, Bahá'u'lláh appointed his son 'Abdu'l-Bahá as his successor. In turn, 'Abdu'l-Bahá made a Covenant with the Bahá'ís that they should accept his appointed successor after his own passing.
Hand of the Cause - A Hand of the Cause is an individual charged by Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá or Shoghi Effendi with specific duties of protecting and propagating the Bahá'í Faith. Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi, the Universal House of Justice found that it did not possess the authority to appoint new Hands of the Cause. Instead their functions were extended into the future by the institution of the Counsellors.
Holy Days - Days commemorating significant Bahá'í anniversaries. Work is to be suspended on nine Bahá'í Holy Days during the year. There are no prescribed ceremonies for their commemoration, but many Bahá'í communities combine a devotional program with fellowship and social activities.
Local Spiritual Assembly - The local administrative body of the Bahá'í community. The nine members are elected from among the Bahá'ís in a local community and serve for a period of one year. The Assembly oversees the activities of the community and provides advice, guidance and assistance to those in difficulty.
Manifestation of God - The great prophets of God, His chosen messengers, who appear in each age. Manifestations of God are not God descended to earth, but rather are perfect reflections of His attributes. Manifestations of God in the past include Abraham, Noah, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, Moses, Muhammad, the Báb, and Bahá'u'lláh. There have been other Manifestations as well.
National Spiritual Assembly - The national administrative body of the Bahá'í Faith. Its nine members are elected by delegates representative of local Bahá'í communities at an annual convention.
Naw Ruz - The Bahá'í new year. Marking the end of the month of fasting, it occurs on the spring equinox, which generally falls on 21 March. Naw Ruz is a joyous time of celebration.
Nineteen Day Feast - The principal gathering of Bahá'ís of a particular form. The Nineteen Day Feast is normally held on the first day of every Bahá'í month, and brings together the members of the Bahá'í community for worship, consultation and fellowship.
Universal House of Justice - The supreme administrative body of the Bahá'í Faith. The Universal House of Justice is elected every five years by the members of the national spiritual assemblies at an international convention. Its membership is confined to men. Bahá'ís believe the Universal House of Justice to be infallible.