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1893 World's Parliament of Religions

Charles Bonney and the Idea for a World Parliament of Religions

The 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago is often regarded as the birth of the interfaith movement. But whose idea was it? The answer is Charles Carroll Bonney.

Interfaith and Peace, Social Justice, and Respect for the Earth

“War no more.” That was the hope that inspired Charles Bonney as he explained in his opening address to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions. Bonney believed that a major cause of conflict was “because the religious faiths of the world have most seriously misunderstood and misjudged each other.”i One hundred years later, Hans Küng declared that there would be “No peace in the world without peace between religions.”ii

Pluralism - A Home For All Of Us

When non-Christian religious leaders around the world were invited to attend the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, the letter asked them to come and share the wisdom of their traditions. It also promised that at the Parliament they would be able to perfect that wisdom through Jesus Christ. As the 20th century approached, in other words, the most open, liberal, progressive people of faith in America shared the assumption that their tradition was the truest and most important. Historically, the Catholic doctrine of “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus,” or “outside the Church there is no salvation,” makes the point categorically. But Catholics have had no corner on the notion that salvation is exclusively theirs, a claim ripe for setting people of faith and practice against each other.

Recovering Interfaith History, Recovering Ourselves

The sad wisdom claiming “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it” is much more interesting turned upside down: Those who remember the best of the past are freed to live into a better future. Choosing interfaith history as TIO’s second theme had to do with reclaiming remarkable stories, mostly unknown, of men and women building friendship among strangers centuries, even millennia ago.