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.
“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.
“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