The Parliament is Coming to America in 2015

Heather Greene —  August 20, 2014 — 6 Comments

The Council for a Parliament of the World Religions made two big announcements this month. On Aug. 8, the Council reported that its Parliament would now be held every two years. Then Aug. 15, the Council announced that the very next 2015 Parliament would be hosted in a U.S. city for the first time in 22 years.

cpwr_logo_headerThe original Parliament of the World Religions was held in Chicago in 1893. As noted on its website, that meeting is now largely considered the “birth of interreligious dialogue worldwide.” The landmark event brought together representatives of both eastern and western religious traditions and, additionally, supported an unprecedented number of women speakers. After the 1893 Parliament, Hindu attendee Swami Vivekananda said:

If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: “Help and not Fight,” “Assimilation and not Destruction,” “Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.

Unfortunately, the Parliament wasn’t held again until 1993. Over that 100 years, the world’s religious canvas changed considerably. With all of those changes, the need for interreligious work only grew. In 1988, a group of religious leaders met in Chicago to form the Council for a Parliament of the World Religions as a nonprofit organization. Their purpose was to celebrate and promote interfaith dialog and peace through a regularly scheduled Parliamentary event. Since that point, there have been 5 Parliaments.

1993 – Chicago, USA

1999 – Cape Town, South Africa

2004 – Barcelona, Spain

2007 – Monterrey, Mexico

2009 – Melbourne, Australia

This past April, Council trustees met in Atlanta, Georgia for a special “Charter for Compassion” celebration event and the induction of two Pagans into the Martin Luther King, Jr. International College of Ministries and Laity at Morehouse College. During that weekend, the two inductees, Andras Corban-Arthen and Phyllis Curott, spent several hours speaking with local Pagans about the organization’s work. During that talk titled “Pagans in the Parliament,” they showed a digital slideshow illustrating the 20 years of Pagan involvement with the Parliament.

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Curott and Corban-Arthen at the MLK induction ceremony and Compassion celebration.

Today, both Curott and Corban-Arthen are on the board of trustees and involved with the decisions and future direction of the Parliament. One of those recent decisions was to hold the Parliament every two years. Up to now, the time cycle was set at five years but the actual implementation has taken various lengths of time. The last Parliament was held in 2009 and the next one will be in 2015.

Why have they moved the cycle to two years? The Board says:

As the interfaith movement has doubled and tripled in interfaith action and services in the last decade it has become necessary that this largest summit of people of faith working together for a just, peaceful and sustainable world come together more often.

Board Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid also cited “the age of social media, a globalized world and shorter attention spans” for the adoption of a shorter Parliament cycle. The trustees hope that this change will draw more attention and greater support for the global interfaith movement. In addition, they believe it will engage and inspire younger generations.

The new 2-year period begins in 2015 with a Parliament to be held in the U.S. The Board has yet to announce the specific city but the organizational process is in motion. Chair Mujahid said:

America is the home base of the interfaith movement and it’s about time the Parliament come back home. The Parliament in 2015 will strengthen the interfaith movement through our listening, sharing and networking with each other.

U.S-based Pagans directly involved in the interfaith movement are looking forward to the event. In response to the announcement, the Contemporary Pagan Alliance, based in West Virginia, stated: “Excellent news! We will definitely be there.”

Upon hearing the news, Rev. Sandy Harris, M. Div noted the importance in the continuation of organizations work. She says, “The Parliament of World Religions has provided a venue for exploring [and] has opened a window into American spirituality far wider than the standard monotheistic beliefs. It has helped us all to explore the origins, practices, and understandings of people of all religions and paths.”

Holli Emore, writer at The Wild Garden blog and member of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina, hopes to attend the 2015 event. She says:

I am beside myself that it will be here. This is where the first Parliament happened. I think that most Pagans in America are not involved enough with interfaith and don’t understand it. They see it as a platform for defending Paganism and miss the richness and joy of engaging and getting to know other faiths and people of other faiths.

In order to best serve future attendees, the Council is doing a survey on wishes and needs for 2015. The survey is posted on their website. Additionally the Council is seeking bids for hosting the 2017 event. The submission process and outline are on the site as well.

In meantime, the world awaits the announcement of the exact host city for the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Stay tuned for more….

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Heather Greene

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Heather is a freelance writer and Pagan spirit living in the Deep South. She is currently the National Public Information Officer for Covenant of the Goddess and has worked extensively with Lady Liberty League. Heather's work has been published in Circle Magazine and elsewhere. She has a masters degree in Film Theory, Criticism and History with a background in the performing and visual arts.
  • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

    It would be great to see a lot of Pagans at this Parliament. Indianapolis would be a great place to come to!

    • Franklin_Evans

      Depends on which city they choose, but I’m already planning on going.

  • Deborah Bender

    The Parliament is an expensive event to put on, and expensive to attend for people not living nearby. From accounts I have heard, previous Parliaments had a wonderful diversity of participants. I wonder whether increasing the frequency is going to put it out of the reach of average people, and make it more of a gathering of interfaith and religion professionals.

  • Annika Mongan

    <— VERY EXCITED!!! I plan on being there.

  • Charles Cosimano

    I survived the one in 1993 and came out of it with a bunch of funny stories and little else except a couple of parodies that wrote. It was interesting but on the whole nothing to take very seriously.

    • Deborah Bender

      There are so many different things going on at on of these Parliaments that I would imagine that different people will get different impressions, depending on whom they talk to and which programs they participate in.

      A lot of people talking about peace and understanding in different accents can be a real snoozefest if you don’t know any of them and aren’t involved in some specific project with definable goals. I don’t have the patience for much of that myself.

      The 1993 and 1999 Parliaments attracted large contingents of witches and neopagans, some representing organizations, others attending on their own. Their presence and participation had a definite impact on the ways that Wiccans and other Pagans are viewed and listened to by interfaith activists of other religions all over the world; resulted in alliances being formed between neopagans and indigenous spiritual leaders and neopagans and Hindus; and led to the formation of a grassroots international interfaith organization called the United Religions Initiative.

      If we don’t speak for ourselves in these kinds of gatherings, either no one will speak for us, or people will be speaking for us who aren’t necessarily well informed about us. In addition to what we can do for ourselves, the networking and coalition building that has gone on at all the Parliaments of modern times have put witches and neopagans in a position to defend and help some practitioners of indigenous and pagan religions when they are discriminated against in their home countries. Although some followers of Abrahamic and Dharmic religions may have sympathy for those people, they don’t usually have the understanding that other pagans have; they speak as outsiders while we speak as members of the same family.

      The Covenant of the Goddess has a public blog that several of CoG’s official interfaith representatives post to, with pictures and personal commentary. If you are interested in reading it, go to the home page of the CoG website, http://www.cog.org, and click on the Interfaith Blog link at the very top of the page.