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Interfaith Dialogue Flowering in Mexico

By Ruth Broyde Sharone

Report from Guadalajara

More than 1,000 participated in the “Universal Multicultural Dialogue of 2012,” a spiritual and cultural festival held at the Archeological Museum in Guadalajara, Mexico, August 29-September 2.  The five-day conference included 140 events: panel discussions, dialogues, workshops, performances, meditations, ritual celebrations, yoga instruction, and a keynote by neurosurgeon Dr. James R. Doty of Stanford University. His talk centered around scientific research of the beneficial effects of meditation on the brains of a group of Buddhist monks.

A fierce opening night rainstorm overwhelmed the vinyl tarpaulin stretched across the open-air patio. An unexpected downpour of golf-size hail stones flooded the patio where the inauguration ceremonies were taking place. Everyone ran for cover, but the Guadalajaran organizers were unphased. We reassembled within the Museum and continued the ceremony with blessings, congratulatory speeches from city officials, and a welcome by Andras Corban, from the global Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

The event was organized by the Guadalajara’s Carpe Diem Interfaith Foundation, headed by the dynamic quartet of Padre Jorge Manzano, Carlos Rodriguez, Gabriela Franco and Martha Aide Aldana, helped by scores of  volunteers. 

At the close Carlos Rodriguez spoke about the purpose and goals of the conference, echoing Carpe Diem's motto, Everyone Under the Same Sky. The audience spontaneously rose to its feet applauding loudly, enthusiastically for more than ten minutes, until he interrupted the applause to thank everyone. Jeff Utter, one of a number of Californians attending, said afterwards, “The hospitality was almost beyond belief.”

This is not the first time the local interfaith community of Guadalajara has proven itself to be a major center for interfaith engagement. They first participated in a pre-Parliament event held in Monterrey, Mexico in 2007. In 2009, Carpe Diem organized a three-day pre-Parliament event  in Guadalajara, resulting in their selection as one of the three potential sites for the 2014 Parliament. The bid eventually went to Brussels, but in the meantime, interfaith culture is clearly flowering in Mexico.