Did the Parliament of the World’s Religions accomplish its mission?
Centennial Gathering of 1993
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was formed in the spring of 1988 to prepare for a centennial celebration of the World’s Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. Itself a group bringing together people of many faiths, the Council has the following objectives:
• To convene
a Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1993.
Five years in the making, the Parliament met from Saturday, August 28th through Saturday, September 4 at the Palmer House in Downtown Chicago uniting people of all the world’s religious traditions from all corners of the earth in the spirit of communion.
• To promote understanding and cooperation among religious communities and institutions.
There were twenty-five designated Presidents of the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, reflecting a global willingness to accomplish this ideal that was apparent in the vast majority of the 7500 who attended Parliament. Those honored as Presidents included Brahma Kumari Dadi Prakashmani, head of Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University in India; H.E. Dr. L. M. Singhvi, Jain scholar and leader from the United Kingdom; H.H. the Dalai Lama, exiled Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, International American Muslim spokesperson from the U.S.A.; Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, Christian President Emeritus of Notre Dame University; Prof. Susannah Heschel, Jewish Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University in U.S.A.; Dastoor Dr. Kaikhusroo Minocher Jamsp Asa, Zoastrian scholar and high priest from Bombay, India; Madame Nana Apeadu, Queen Mother and Envoy Overseas of the Chief of Chiefs of the Akuapim Traditional Area (Eastern Ghana); Rev. Wesley Ariarajah, Deputy General Secretary of the World Council of Churches from Switzerland, as well as others.
• To encourage the spirit
of harmony and to celebrate, with openness and mutual respect, the rich diversity of religions.
The Host Committees were a testament to the manifestation of this desire. African American, Anglican/Episocopal, Baha’i, Buddhist, Pan Orthodox, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Sikh, and Zoastrian faiths united to make this truly a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Throughout the Parliament, at plenary sessions and individual presentations, during lunchtime Parliaments of the People and hallway discussions, this ideal was alive in the hearts and minds of those attending.
• To assess and to renew
the role of the religions of the world in relation to personal spiritual growth and to the critical issues and challenges facing the global community.
Each plenary, when all people were gathered together, brought insight and vision as an answer to the problems we face as the human race. Well described during the Next Generation Plenary Session given by the youth of all religious traditions the hope of spiritual rebirth and maturity was strong. The Creed of the Next Generation is: “We are the Next Generation of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. We believe in Peace through Love, Respect, and Unity. We believe that all people are one in the scope of humanity. May we have hope in our ideas of love. May we have strength to show respect for others. And from this, may we attain unity regardless of race, creed, religion, or sex. And may we have pure hearts, so that we may approach the idea of Peace under the Flag of Religion.”
• To promote and sponsor
conferences, workshops, and studies; interfaith encounters, conversations, and exchanges; exhibits and festivals of religious art, music, dance, and ritual; and other appropriate activities, in anticipation of and preparation for the 1993 Parliament.
From the many presentations held at the Palmer House and described in the accompanying article to the advance release screening of the new movie BARAKA, A World Beyond Worlds at the Art Institute of Chicago, this ideal was met time and again through the cooperative effort of some of the greatest spiritual leaders and thinkers the world has ever known.
• To develop and encourage
interfaith groups and programs which will carry the spirit of the Parliament into the twenty-first century.
The Declaration of a Global Ethic signed by religious leaders during Parliament answers this ideal for it challenges everyone, whether religious or not:
to take individual responsibility for all we do,
to treat others as we wish others to treat us,
to make a commitment to respect life and
to consider humankind our family,
to commit ourselves to a culture of non-
violence, respect, justice, and peace,
and to strive for a just social and economic
order in which everyone has an equal chance
to reach full potential as a human being.
The Global Ethic recognizes that the earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed first. With the experience we gave to one another during Parliament, that change has indeed been set into motion. The Spirit has been awakened.
Did the Parliament accomplish its mission? With grace and dignity, love and determination, Yes!–Ed.
©1993 Vol. 11 No. 4
copyright 2002 School of Metaphysics