By Paul Chaffee
INTERNATIONAL INTERFAITH EVENT ANNOUNCED
At a September 9 press conference, the Parliament of the World’s Religions announced that the next global Parliament will be in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 15-19, 2015. The event will address a host of issues, with special attention given to climate change, wealth disparity, and global violence.
Preparations are being made for up to 10,000 from 80 countries to attend, an ambitious goal considering the cost, visa difficulties entering the U.S., and the monumental task of organizing hundreds of workshops along with plenary sessions, high-profile guest appearances, music and the arts, food services, and the host of other activities that have characterized the modern Parliaments. Held in Cape Town (1999), Barcelona (2004),and Melbourne (2009), they were inspired by the 1993 centenary celebration of the 1893 international World Parliament of Religions (as it was called back then). Eight thousand attended the 1993 Chicago celebration, with 3,000 more were turned away for lack of space.
The historic nineteenth-century Parliament is frequently bookmarked as the beginning of the interfaith movement, the first public forum anywhere that invited leaders from the world’s major religious traditions to share their faith and practice with each other. It marked a major development in global religion. The 1993 hundred-year anniversary opened the door to all faiths, particularly to global activists and their organizations, helping inspire thousands of interfaith activities in most countries around the world these past 30 years.
Modern Parliaments have attracted thousands, and initial plans were made for an event in Brussels this year. But the financial constraints of organizing a major international forum every five years or so put the Parliament through a rough patch for several years, resulting in a new staff and a number of new trustees. The reassembled team has been working under tough circumstances to keep an historic tradition alive, and the Salt Lake 2015 announcement represents a significant benchmark for the Parliament’s Council.
Some may wonder why the Parliament’s first site in the U.S. since Chicago, 22 years ago, would be in the heart of Mormonism. In fact, Salt Lake hosted the initial North America United Religions Initiative summit in 2001 and the North American Interfaith Network’s NAINConnect in 2010. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is well-known for its robust missionary program, but in interfaith circles Mormons have been activists and supporters, never proselytizing during interfaith activities.
Last April the Parliament of the World’s Religions and the Charter for Compassion signed an agreement to be collaborative partners.
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Parliament chair, Dr. Mary Nelson, Parliament executive director, Dr. Arun Gandhi, Andrew Himes of Charter for Compassion, and Sande Hart of United Religions Initiative all spoke to the importance of these plans at the press conference. It was held at Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center, where the Parliament will be held next year.
Go here to read the details, including considerable registration discounts from now through November. Young adults are being particularly encouraged to participate and will enjoy special discounts.
The Parliament’s Council has decided that sponsoring events every two years, rather than five, will make the whole enterprise more doable, and discussions are going on with 20 cities that have expressed an interest in hosting a 2017 Parliament.