Report from the Parliament of the World’s Religions

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Faith Nowadays columnist James Beverley was in Toronto for a week-extended gathering of effectively more than six,000 religious leaders known as The Parliament of the World’s Religions. In his initial report, he considers how a tone of harmony prevailed even as participants regarded contentious complications such as religious bigotry and genocide.

By James A. Beverley

Toronto, arguably the most diverse city in the planet, was not too long ago host to the seventh Parliament of the World’s Religions. The 1st such parliament dates to Chicago in 1893. Just after a century delay, parliaments had been held once more in Chicago in 1993, Cape Town (1999), Barcelona (2004), Melbourne (2009), Salt Lake City (2015) and not too long ago in the biggest city in Canada.

James Beverley at The Parliament of the World’s Religions

The Toronto gathering, Nov. 1-7, 2018, drew a lot more than six thousand registrants from all corners of the globe. Media reports mentioned attendees came from a lot more than two hundred diverse religious or spiritual traditions. As 1 would anticipate, there had been devotees from the biggest religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism). But other smaller sized traditions had been also represented, which includes African Standard, Baha’i, Indigenous, Pagan and Zoroastrian. The Toronto Parliament also hosted reasonably new religions which includes Aumism (France), Band of Light (UK), CaoDai (Vietnam), Eckankar (USA) and Scientology (USA).

The Parliament illustrated its pluralist ethos by providing space to atheist humanists, which includes most notably Gretta Vosper, the United Church of Canada pastor who regained her ministerial license not too long ago regardless of her atheism. Evangelical Christians had a minimal presence at the week-extended gathering, even though Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners, was a featured plenary speaker.

In spite of the wide diversity in spiritualities a tone of harmony prevailed, as 1 would hope provided the theme was “The Guarantee of Inclusion, the Energy of Like: Pursuing International Understanding, Reconciliation, and Alter.” John Longhurst of The Winnipeg Cost-free Press reported on his “sense of wonder and amazement so several folks from so several areas and so several religions could all collect peacefully in the exact same location — and no arguments about who was correct or incorrect broke out?”

The pervasive tranquility did not imply participants had been naïve about the dark side of religion. In truth, there had been frequent references to the killings at The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that occurred just days earlier. A single of the sessions dealt with religious extremism in northeastern Nigeria, two other people exposed white supremacy, and each anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism had been addressed. Even the threat of nuclear war was examined. Beyond this, participants probed the genocide against the Yazidi folks of Iraq and neighbouring nations as effectively as the systemic brutalization of the Rohingya folks in Myanmar. The Planet Sikh Organization held a vigil at the Parliament on the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India.

Earlier Parliaments usually got noticed due to the fact of a variety of religious superstars. At the 1st Chicago assembly the hero was Hindu leader Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902). At his Parliament speech his opening words “Sisters and brothers of America” earned him a two-minute standing ovation. A century later (Chicago 1993) His Holiness the Dalai Lama was idolized – and once more when he produced an look at the Barcelona assembly in 2004 and in Melbourne in 2009 (exactly where U.S. president Jimmy Carter was also a main presence). Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela had been the featured speakers at Cape Town in 1999.

Each at the Salt Lake City (2015) and Toronto parliaments there had been no equivalent spiritual luminaries who would be recognized to absolutely everyone. The highest profiles in Toronto belonged to Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada, and retired Lieutenant-Common Romeo Dallaire, most famously recognized for his perform as commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda in 1993 and 1994. Each Campbell and Dallaire mentioned that religion offers a foundation for the future but lamented the pervasiveness of secularism.

Faith Nowadays columnist James A. Beverley

Ironically, there had been pretty couple of news reports in the mainstream media on the Toronto parliament.

Subscribe to Faith Nowadays to study a complete multi-web page report on the Toronto occasion, coming in our Jan/Feb 2019 situation.

James Beverley is the Religion Watch columnist for Faith Nowadays. He was at the Toronto Parliament and also attended the 1993 Parliament in Chicago and the 1999 Parliament in Cape Town.

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