I write this from Salt Lake City, at the 6th meeting of the Parliament of World Religions. The Parliament was founded in 1893 in Chicago and has been considered the beginning of the Global Interfaith Movement. Each meeting takes a thematic perspective in search of the ways religious leaders and communities could better the world by acting together.
In 1993, at the second meeting in Chicago, the Parliament considered a "Declaration towards a Global Ethic", in search of an ethical common ground. It met again in 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa, to witness the transformation of a new South Africa and the role of religion and spirituality in its creation. In 2004 (Barcelona, Spain), it worked on pathways to peace in the face of fear and violence. In 2009 (Melbourne, Australia), the theme was the rights of indigenous peoples and a sustainable, healthy world.
This year the theme is healing the heart of humanity. The Parliament considers issues such as women’s dignity, emerging leaders, poverty, war, violence and hate speech and climate change.
You will be proud to know that 11 Elon University students, one alumna and seven faculty and staff members have given time to being here to learn, engage in dialogue and to present twice about the university's multi-faith initiatives and mindfulness for college students.
There are more than 50 religions and spiritualities represented here at Parliament, and perhaps many more. We have lunch with the Sikh community and hear prayers in every plenary from multiple perspectives. One of us wore a Sikh turban all day Friday to have the experience.
At one session, a Jewish Rabbi asked us to look around in the group of 9,000 attendees, sitting together at peace in the same massive room.
“We are a microcosm of the whole world here. Imagine that this is what the world is like.”
If we imagine religions at peace, striving for the common good of all of us, then we can work for it.
Of course, this is not the way the world is. We know that. But at the Parliament, for these five days, we have had a glimpse into what could be for us and the world: people coming together from all walks of life, all perspectives on religion, secularity, spiritual eclectics, to learn from each other, to understand what we share, to be and express our authentic selves without compromise and to see that we can cooperate to improve human lives around the world. Think of what we could accomplish together.
It bears reminding us that our multi-faith initiative at Elon is working in the same direction. The Parliament group will present some of our learning and inspiration at a gathering at 6:30 Nov. 2 in the McBride Gathering Room. We hope you will join us.