By Ruth Broyde Sharone
REPORT: “SEEDS OF PEACE: HONORING WATER, SOURCE OF LIFE” IN LOS ANGELES
Two hundred participants – scientists, clergy, spiritual practitioners, artists, and concerned citizens – gathered for an all-day teach-in on Sunday, March 8, 2015 at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, exploring practical solutions to the global climate crisis and water shortage. Organized by the Southern California Parliament of the World’s Religions, “Seeds of Peace: Honoring Water, Source of Life” offered spiritual practice, sacred ritual, social action, and climate-based workshops, as well as a vibrant communal marketplace with 40 vendors all focused on the life-sustaining role of water.
The main afternoon session featured a panel of environmental experts and prominent social activists: Grandmother Mona Polacca, one of the 13 International Indigenous Grandmothers; Andy Lipkis, founder and head of TreePeople; Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder and executive director of Interfaith Light and Power; Rabbi Sharon Brous, a nationally known religious leader and social activist; and John B. Cobb, Jr., a renowned eco-theologian and professor emeritus of the Claremont School of Theology. The panel was moderated by well-known spiritualteacher-author-activist Marianne Williamson.
Scientist Reese Walker, known as “The Earth Doctor,” delivered an impassioned talk about the melting of the polar caps and the ongoing disappearance of multiple species – a result of the current climate crisis – with concrete suggestions for practical action.
Artistic highlights throughout the day included the premiere of an original composition by Academy-Award-winning composer Yuval Ron, performed by Scarlet Rivera (Bob Dylan’s violinist) on a unique “peace violin” fashioned by Venerable Reverend Patrick McCollum from wood and ashes that he collectedfrom holy places and sites of conflict around the world. Other performances featured the Grammy-nominated Constance Demby of Musical Currents, playing her sonic steel space bass, "Peace Troubadour" Stephen Longfellow Fiske, and a performance by the Move the World social action youth dance troupe from Topanga Canyon.
U.N. International Women’s Day was also celebrated at mid-day in a special ceremony with candle lighting and songs, organized by Ariella Lewis, a local interfaith activist. And a complimentary vegetarian lunch – called langar in the Sikh tradition, was donated by the Sikhs’ Khalsa Peace Corps.
Gilla Nissan, who led a workshop based on the Kabbalistic interpretation of the Hebrew letter “mem,” for “Mayim” (water), later commented, “There was a transformative energy in the room that left me very moved, and, as a meditation teacher, I was touched to think about the importance of moving from meditation to action.”
Since 2007 SCCPWR has been dedicated to creating groundbreaking events about current events and religious diversity involving both religious and secular communities, as well as drawing attention to the work of the global Parliament. This was SCCPWR’s third Seeds of Peace event, recognized on Sunday with a special framed certificate from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. It was awarded, the certificate said, “For all you do for the citizens of Los Angeles to promote dialogue about the variety of sacred experiences and building peace and community.”