Today is the start of a new year. The vernal equinox marks the new year for millions of people around the world, but it is a particularly important occasion in countries such as Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. This day is called Naw-Ruz or Nowruz. The United Nations has declared March 21st International Nowruz Dayas part of a program to recognise and celebrate the cultural diversity of the world’s people and to promote understanding between peoples of different cultural backgrounds.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations has released a message in recognition of Naw-Ruz for 2012. In it he recognises the ancient origins of the festival and the diversity of the people who celebrate it today:
For three thousand years of world history and for three hundred million people today, Nowruz unites regions and nationalities, religions and languages to share in the renewal of life on the first day of Spring.
I don’t come from a culture that traditionally recognises Naw-Ruz, but I celebrate this day along with Baha’is all around the world as Naw-Ruz marks the start of the new Baha’i year. Naw-Ruz in 2012 marks the start of the year 169 in the Baha’i calendar.
March 21st is also recognised as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The theme this year is ‘Racism and Conflict’ to highlight that racism is often the underlying cause of violent conflicts.
I find the juxtaposition of these two International Days interesting. International Nowruz Day recognises a festival that unites people and promotes harmony. The International day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination highlights a serious global problem and encourages us to rid ourselves of the harmful behaviours that are a blight on our world.
Today is a good opportunity for us to reflect on what action we can take to promote harmony, celebrate diversity and quash prejudice.