The Idea of Faith Actions in the Parliament of World Religions 2023
The communication is unequivocal and distinct. We must join hands, unite, and safeguard the religious freedoms of various faiths. The Parliament of World Religions (PoWR) has undergone considerable development since its inception in 1893. The 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions brought together 400 individuals, both men and women, representing 41 distinct religious traditions. This historic event acknowledged Catholicism and Judaism as significant American religions and introduced Hinduism and Buddhism to the Western world for the first time.
In the present day, amidst instances of religious extremism and state-endorsed marginalization, the initial image of comprehensive challenges appears in stark contrast. The presence of Mexican, Chinese, and Indian representatives on the podium encourages stakeholders of faith to pursue peace, harmony, and discussions on pertinent issues. The atmosphere in Chicago was charged, and Mayor Brandon Johnson aptly expressed that relying solely on scriptures and holy texts is insufficient; instead, showcasing humanity’s greatest creation and power – love – becomes imperative.
PoWR 2023 served as a moral imperative. The overarching theme centered on defending freedom and Human Rights. A stroll through the exhibition hall could awaken one’s moral consciousness. It featured spiritual traditions, religious communities, faith-based educational institutions, contemporary mantras for fostering connections, ancient sutras for equilibrium, conversations against religious animosity, social advancement organizations, and healing yoga meditations. One section hosted interfaith songs, while another presented data on minority groups targeted by right-wing governments. The space was adorned with complimentary mementos such as pens, badges, t-shirts, chocolates, pins, meticulously detailed leaflets, and brochures. The Boston School of Theology offered courses to comprehend religions, while the Divine Life Society engaged the masses with yoga-oriented insights. The diversity was extensive and inclusive.
PoWR embodies an idea. Over 250 break-out sessions delved into diverse topics. These inner dialogues aimed to engage a substantial audience, yet some sessions escaped notice. Subjects spanned from comprehending and transforming systematic religious patriarchy to serendipitous encounters in anti-nuclear weaponry activism, appealing to discerning minds. However, due to the simultaneous occurrence of numerous sessions, aligning with all discussions was implausible. Plenary sessions were well-received, forging connections. The Women’s Assembly held substantial significance, addressing the genuine participation challenges faced by women in faith-influenced societies. Assemblies focused on climate action, indigenous affairs, and climate repentance ceremonies underscored the roles of faith practitioners.
Religious fanaticism emerged as a topic of utmost concern. Rev. Jen Butler, the founder of Faith in Public Life, remarked, “Religion is being exploited to provide moral endorsement for abhorrent acts of violence, contradicting moral teachings. Authoritarian figures manipulate religion to amass power and exert control, from Russian Orthodox nationalism to Catholic nationalism in Hungary and Poland, Hindutva in India, Jewish nationalism in Israel’s new ruling coalition, and forms of religious nationalism among evangelicals and Pentecostals in the U.S. and Brazil.” Exhibits within the expo center amplified this message with force.
The Langar, a ritual from previous PoWR gatherings, resonated with thousands of participants. Organized by Birmingham-based Nishkam Seva Jatha, this Sikh tradition was led by Bhai Sahab Mohinder Singh, who stated that he adheres to Sikh guru teachings by serving the world impartially. Faith leaders, adorned with white scarves, formed lines, relishing Indian delicacies with contentment. In essence, the tent encapsulated a grand showcase of interfaith harmony and service. Nishkam Seva Jatha has provided free langar since the 2004 PoWR.
The memory of 30,000 children lost to gun violence was honored through scraps of orange fabric arranged around a labyrinth or forged into tools by Shane Claiborne’s blacksmith forge. He articulated, “Shaping that metal signifies the belief that the world can be different.”
The Parliament of World Religions 2023 presents all the elements necessary to reconsider our perception of religions. It has invited esteemed faith leaders and engaged them in meaningful dialogues. The closed-door sessions of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable held significance, akin to their Washington counterparts. The Indian delegation of interfaith leaders was notably enthusiastic. As we aspire for a better world, the exchange of ideas becomes imperative. PoWR has evolved into a pertinent platform for intricate discussions. Here, faith assumes a fresh and actionable agenda.