Pagans For The Parliament

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 29, 2013 — 11 Comments

In recent weeks I have stressed the importance of national and international interfaith efforts by modern Pagans, how this form of outreach can bring attention to issues we face and build important alliances in the global faith community. One of our most important achievements in this area has been with the Parliament of the World’s Religions,  where the modern conception of “interfaith” was born in 1893. It was at the revived 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago that modern Paganism effectively “came out” to the global interfaith movement, and where we established ourselves as faiths to be taken seriously.

“The Pagan presence at the Parliament was historic. The fact that this Parliament included Pagan group sponsors, speakers, and delegates in the first place was noteworthy, since Nature religions were excluded from the first Parliament. At this Parliament, however, there was inclusion, respect, and support. In addition to Wiccans and other Pagans, there were those from a variety of traditional Nature wisdom paths, including Winnebago, Navajo, Hopi, Yoruba, Maya, Santeria, Lakota, Cheyenne, and others. Pagan and Native American participation received widespread positive media attention. Some reporters commented that just as the first Parliament served to introduce Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions to the realm of religions in the West, this Parliament served to bring Pagan and Native American spiritualities more fully into the community of the world’s religions.”

In the 20 years since that parliament, modern Pagans have made important contributions to the global interfaith movement, and since 2002 three modern Pagans: Angie Buchanan, Phyllis Curott, and Andras Corban-Arthen have served on the Parliament’s Board of Trustees. Yesterday, these Pagans came forward to fundraise on the Parliament’s behalf, noting that the organization is in peril due to circumstances beyond its control. Andras Corban-Arthen, founder and spiritual director of the EarthSpirit Community, and Parliament board emeritus, sent the following out to various email lists and social networking sites.

Andras Corban-Arthen (center) with Parliament board trustees in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Andras Corban-Arthen (center) with Parliament board trustees in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“The Parliament of the World’s Religions has been promoting peace, understanding and respect among all peoples, religions and nations for a very long time. The Parliament gave birth to the interfaith movement in 1893, and through the vehicle of interreligious dialogue, has spread its message to many thousands of people all over the globe.

For those of us who are pagan, or who follow any of the Earth-centered spiritual paths, the Parliament has provided a welcoming place where we could openly share our practices within the community of the world’s religions: pagans from five continents have been featured presenters & performers at the Parliaments in Chicago (1993), Cape Town (1999), Barcelona (2004) and Melbourne (2009), and at the World Interreligious Encounter in Monterrey, Mexico (2007). Since 2002, three pagans — Angie Buchanan, Phyllis Curott, and myself — have also served on the Parliament’s Board of Trustees. The Parliament was the first major interfaith organization to give our community a seat at the table.

Now the Parliament needs our help — it faces an unexpectedly immediate, one-time financial challenge, which threatens its very existence. We need to raise $150,000 by 12 April, and the many world-wide religious communities which participate in the Parliament are already mobilizing to help us reach this goal.

This is the time for the pagan movement to show its support for this organization which has welcomed and supported us for so long, and in so many ways. Please give what you can: your contribution, no matter how small, can make a big difference!”

Phyllis Curott, founder of the Temple of Ara, and recently elected to serve as the Vice-Chair for the Parliament, posted an appeal as well, giving some background into how this fiscal trouble came about.

Phyllis Curott (third from left) at an interfaith gathering.

Phyllis Curott (third from left) at an interfaith gathering.

“The Parliament incurred a large and burdensome debt as the consequence of an unexpected drop in the attendance of the 2004 Barcelona Parliament due to a terrorist attack in Madrid weeks earlier. As a result, there was insufficient income to cover the expenses of the event. While we have been paying it off slowly, a Spanish arbitrator ruled against the Parliament and despite our efforts to challenge the award, a US Court has now ruled that the Spanish arbitration award is binding and the balance of the debt is due immediately. In anticipation that we might lose, we started raising funds last Fall, and have raised about half the amount needed. We expected to have several more months to raise the rest, but the remaining balance is now due immediately. We need to raise $150,000 and have until April 12th to do so […] This is the time for the pagan movement to show its support for this organization which has welcomed and supported us for so long, and in so many ways. Please give what you can: your contribution, no matter how small, can make a big difference!”

This is the most recent setback for the organization that organizes the parliaments, which had recently announced that the 2014 Parliament of the World’s Religions will not be happening in Brussels due to the ongoing economic hardships in Europe, and that they are seeking a new home for the gathering. So the continued fiscal health for this organization is precarious if they can’t raise the money necessary to pay off this debt. Pagans involved with the parliament are hoping our community can raise $25,000 of the total $150,000 amount needed and have started a page at causevox.com for those who want to help. 

“Imagine a world without the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Imagine that tens of thousands of global citizens didn’t attend the South Africa Parliament in 1999 to see how the interfaith movement helped end apartheid. Imagine the indigenous tribes in Australia who long stood outside their societies still waiting to be heard until their voices were the core of the Melbourne Parliament in 2009.”

Supporting the Parliament of the World’s Religions at this time has practical and symbolic value. The Parliament helps bring our religions to the global stage, gives us a voice in which we can interact with other faith leaders, and helps us speak out on issues of importance to us. Supporting the Parliament also shows that we can, and will, lend support to the organizations that involve and support us. It shows that we are ready to walk on the world stage. As modern Pagan religions increasingly become world religions we will need spaces where we can dialog and make alliances, where we can reach out, and if need be, speak truth to power about injustices done to us. As recent events have shown, our reach is longer now than ever, so too must be our responsibility and sense of global purpose. Ensuring that the Parliament of the World’s Religions survives ultimately serves our needs, and we should strive to see that it does.

If just 25,000 of the estimated million American Pagans gave a dollar to this campaign, it would already have reached the goal set for it. That, in my mind, would be a dollar well spent. If just a mere fraction of the global Pagan community gave a little, we could erase this debt ourselves. Let’s send a message, image if the headlines read: Pagans save the Parliament of the World’s Religions. That is a headline I’d love to write, and I suspect, that many of you would love to read.

Here’s the link to donate: http://parliamentofreligions.causevox.com/pagans

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Jason Hatter

    Donated and shared.

  • Phyllis Curott, Vice ChairCPWR

    Thanks so much Jason for bringing the attention of our diverse community to this singular issue – and for framing the importance of our support for the Parliament in terms that are both clear and inspiring. Small contributions – made together – can not only make a huge difference in the Parliament’s survival, it can also make history! Blessings to you and all whom you inspire today.

  • Charles Cosimano

    “Imagine a world without the 2009 World Parliament of Religions,”? It would look the world does now. It’s not like anyone who matters actually takes anything those gatherings does seriously.

    • Amused

      The Indigenous people from the US were pretty unhappy with the non-Native, American Pagans who tried to colonize the Indigenous councils. That is really not the way for Pagans to go about finding alliances and it’s not real interfaith work. Especially when some of those same Pagans have supported frauds in the past and let them speak for the Indigenous. The way the parliament is represented to, and by, Pagans is pretty different from the reports in Indigenous communities. There is concern among traditional people about the agenda of some of the people in this organization, the lack of due diligence in checking out people’s self-reporting, and the good old problem of tokenism and outsiders to communities choosing representatives who don’t really speak for those communities. I think a lot of Indigenous folks have bailed on the parliament. Then again, if the organization doesn’t fold, there may be an effort next time to stop the colonization.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1496810171 Angie Buchanan

        I’m not sure who’s hiding behind the pseudonym, “Amused” but, I was
        there in 2009 and I can tell you there was no colonizing by Pagans. The indigenous panels and symposiums were well attended and well received. They were not just from the US or North America but from Africa, Europe, South America, Asia, and the South Sea Pacific Islands. The task force assigned to do the inviting for Americas Indigenous peoples was led by Omie Baldwin, a retired clinical social worker from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University Health Services, and a member of the Dine’ Nation, (a/k/a:Navajos). She was a member of the Board of Trustees for CPWR and had been since 1993. She was the organizer for the participation of the Americas Indigenous peoples. She is active with teh American Indian students on UWM campus amd continues to be active in her Dine’ Nation home community on the Navajo Nation in Arizona, where her family still resides. I fail to see where your accusations of ‘lack of due diligence and tokenism’ hold any truth other than your own projections. I am unaware of any of the “unhappiness” over this within the US indigenous of which you speak.There is still considerable involvement in the parliament by indigenous folks from the US and elsewhere.

        • AndrasArthen

          I would like to join Angie and Phyllis in publicly thanking you for your help, Jason. We are well on our way toward raising the necessary funds, and I have noticed a definite surge in the Causevox part of the fundraiser since the Wild Hunt post came out.

          As far as the post by “Amused” is concerned, in my own experience, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s very easy for someone to speak in vague, sweeping generalizations about American pagans “colonizing” indigenous councils and “supporting frauds,” and about negative “reports in Indigenous communities” regarding the Parliament, without naming one name, identifying one source, or giving one specific instance to support their allegations. I was one of the people who organized the Indigenous Assembly at the 2009 Parliament, and was specifically and personally invited by the chair of the task force, a Diné woman who is fiercely opposed to cultural appropriation by whites — there was no element of “colonialism” in that. The three representatives of the European pagan traditions were welcomed with open arms at the Assembly, where we made some important connections & lasting friendships — no colonialism there either. Last year, I was invited to attend a gathering of over 300 American Indian representatives from all over the country in New Mexico; there was just a handful of white people there, and I was the only pagan — as usual, I was warmly welcomed and treated with kindness and respect, without one single incident of animosity. And I just attended an invitation-only event organized by the Onondaga Nation at the Museum of the American Indian in NYC to mark the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum Treaty; there were several American Indian leaders there whom I had met at the Parliament’s Indigenous Assembly in Melbourne, and they were very warm and friendly and glad to see me there. I’m just speaking about my own experience, but I have heard lots of similar stories from other pagans who are trying to build bridges with indigenous people through interfaith dialogue. I invite “Amused” to contact me privately & give me more details about the situations she/he is referring to; I’d be happy to try to address any such problems with the people directly involved.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1496810171 Angie Buchanan

      Everyone who attends, matters – from the Dalai Lama and the political dignitaries, to the housewife from Sheboygan, and I can assure you, the work is taken seriously.

  • http://profiles.google.com/thorncoyle T Thorn Coyle

    As I wrote in Standing as Pagans in Yana’s Name*:

    “A friend once asked me why I attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia. He didn’t understand why interfaith work was useful. I replied that while I prefer to do my interfaith work under the guise of service, peace, and justice, things like the Parliament are important. Why? Because of the conversations in the halls. Because of shared meals. Because shaking hands and breaking bread with someone who has never met a Pagan changes the world. It is a small encounter. But those small encounters mean that someone might return to Saudi Arabia, or Syria or some other place and remember that they met someone whose religion was not theirs, and that person seemed upstanding, that person fed the hungry or planted trees. That person was not a force for evil, but for good.”

    The Parliament helps us. If we can help the Parliament, that will be a very good thing indeed.

    * http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2013/03/standing-as-pagans-in-yanas-name/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1496810171 Angie Buchanan

    Thank you for this, Jason. The Parliament events attract thousands of people who come together to dialog about important world issues; things like clean drinking water, international debt, refugee and indigenous issues, overcoming religiously motivated violence, and the role of religious communities in our societies in connection with those issues. The ripple effect from those dialogs is powerful; bridges have been built and healing has begun between people of different belief systems because of the inter religious movement. It is such important work and this noble and well-respected organization is where it all started. A deep well of gratitude to all who are able and willing to help us overcome this hurdle and keep it going.

    ~Angie Buchanan, Board Member Emeritus

  • Anna Korn

    Please people, can’t we capitalize “Pagans”? it is the name of a religious group, and as such, should be capitalized, just as “Christian,” “Hindu” or “Zoroastrian” are capitalized.
    It also moves us ahead in the community of religions , all of which are capitalized as proper nouns, and as a sign of self-respect.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Technically, it is the name of a category of religions.