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Gathering of faiths focuses on action

23 October 2015

by Marcus Braybrooke in Salt Lake City


THE fifth modern Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, which ended on Monday, marks an important step forward for the interfaith movement. Many of the 8000-plus participants had considerable experience of interfaith activity, and therefore had discovered that loyalty to one’s own faith does not deter openness to others.

As a result, there was less debate about how religions should relate, and a concentration on what faiths together can do to “Reclaim the heart of our humanity”. Moreover, the leaders of the Parliament made clear that the goal was “interreligious harmony, not unity”.

In a message to the Parliament, the Dalai Lama, who was prevented by illness from attending, warned that the interfaith movement could help to save the world, “not just through the nice words of dialogue but with our actions. It is the responsibility of human beings to fix the problems which we create —of climate change, of the widening income gap, of hate and war. God will not do this for us, we must take responsibility for our actions.”

Many speakers focused on the dangers of the contemporary world. Dr Jane Goodall, known for her pioneering work with chimpanzees, spoke about the threats to the environment and the dangers of nuclear weapons. The author Karen Armstrong, champion of the Charter of Compassion, warned of the growing inhumanity and lack of empathy in many parts of the world.

Other sessions worked on a proposed Charter of Forgiveness, hate crimes, and campaigning to make rape a war crime.

Alan Race, with the co-editor of the journal Interreligious Insight, Jim Kenney, led a workshop on “Shaping interreligious relations for the future”. Several members of the World Congress of Faiths took part in a multimedia devotion, “Peace in Our Hearts: Peace in our world”.

All participants were invited to commit themselves to take action personally on climate change, the widening wealth-gap, hate speech, violence and war, and dignity and human rights for women — and also to work to persuade their faith communities to make these issues a priority.

On Sunday evening, a concert of sacred music was held in the Tabernacle of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints of Jesus Christ (Mormons).

Although people had come from about 90 countries, and many different religious and spiritual groups, the majority were from the United States. A small number came from the UK.

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