US President Barack Obama has proclaimed January 16 as Religious Freedom Day in accordance with a yearly tradition, urging his countrymen to stand against religious intolerance.
This is not the first time that Obama has made an effort for religious freedom and equality in the USA.
While the population of Hindus and Muslims in the USA is only 0.7% to 0.9%, according to Gallup polling agency, each year Obama released video messages for these communities wishing them during their respective festivals.
in 2009, President Obama became the first American President to light the Diya, which symbolizes the victory of good over evil on the occasion of Diwali.
A transcript from his video message of 2015, “So on this Diwali, I wish everyone celebrating the holiday across America and around the world a joyous celebration. Saal Mubarak.”
In 2015, President Obama also hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House to celebrate Ramadan, with about 40 Muslim Americans belonging to the diplomatic community. He had welcomed members of Congress into the East Wing of the White House, serving varied Halal food.
In 2016, a school district in the USA had voted unanimously to add the Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Eid-al-Adha in the school holiday calendar for the first time in the school system’s history.
Despite the populations of other religious groups in India, Islam, 14%, Christianity 2.3% and Sikhism 1.7% approximately, according to a census conducted in 2011. India still has seen many controversies in the recent years regarding religious holidays and religious freedom.
In 2015, Rajasthan’s BJP government ordered all government and private colleges to remain open on the day Muslims were to be celebrating their festival Bakr-Eid throughout the state.
In 2014, 25 December as Christmas holiday was replaced on the calendar as “Good Governance Day” , deriving its new significance from the birth anniversary of BJP’s Atal Bihar Vajpayee.
Those in favour of unity and equality in India too hope for a Religious Freedom Day in 2017.