Parliament of the World’s Religions

On Nov. 1, I traveled with my dear friend, the Rev. Sara Isbell, to the seventh Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, Canada.

The first Parliament was held in 1893 in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exhibition or what is more commonly referred to as the Chicago’s World Fair. Some 4,000 people from a number of religious traditions met for the purpose of engaging in interreligious dialogue. Among the participants was Susan B. Anthony.

In 1993 the second one was held in Chicago to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Parliament. It will be remembered for the endorsement by participants, including the Dalai Lama, of the document “Toward a Global Ethic.” It put forth two ethical demands common to all religious traditions in one form or another. The first, the Golden Rule — “What you wish done to yourself, do to others.” And the second — “Every human being must be treated humanely.” These were tied to four directives that included commitments to a culture of non-violence and respect for life; solidarity and a just economic order; tolerance and a life of truthfulness; and equal rights and partnership between men and women.

This year, a fifth was added: A commitment to a culture of sustainability and care for the Earth.

“Toward a Global Ethic” has become the foundation on which the interfaith movement has been built.

The third Parliament, in 1999, was held in Cape Town, South Africa and attended by such notables as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Nelson Mandela. One of the main focuses was the worldwide epidemic of AIDS. In 2004, the fourth Parliament was held in Barcelona, Spain. The Parliament worked with UNESCO to develop “Pathways to Peace” as a dialogue tool to be used to address increasing fear and religiously motivated violence. And at the 2009 Parliament in Melbourne, Australia, the focuses were on a sustainable, healthy world and reconciliation with the aboriginal and indigenous peoples worldwide.


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