In the last week there has been some news about the Parliament’s withdrawal from an event which we had initially endorsed. To clarify the Parliament’s position, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the following resolution recommended by the Executive Committee on September 24, 2013.
The first Parliament of the World’s Religions took place in 1893, and was addressed by Swami Vivekananda. The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (the Parliament) continues to honor this exemplary Hindu saint for his ideals of interfaith understanding and mutual respect, and will honor the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and the 120th anniversary of the Parliament on November 16, 2013 in Chicago. We, the Trustees of the Parliament, commit to working with and engaging in dialogue with all faith communities in keeping with the nature and mission of the Parliament which is:
To cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
We understand that the Parliament is an interfaith organization and not a political one. It must therefore, remain neutral relative to political interests and respectful of the self-identification of each religious community. The decision of the Executive Director of the Parliament to participate in the Chicago World Without Borders event, made in consultation with a Hindu Trustee, and then her decision to withdraw from the event, made pursuant to her authority as Executive Director and in keeping with past practice, have both unintentionally plunged the Parliament into the middle of a storm of differing views, passionately held by people on all sides of the issue and who come from various faith traditions. Nonetheless, she deeply regrets that she did not inform the organizing committee for the event before posting the decision to withdraw the Parliament from co-sponsorship.
The Parliament is now formalizing a policy and process to govern the way in which the Parliament responds to future invitations to co-sponsor or co-host events. Despite the unfortunate way in which this matter has unfolded, because the Parliament is an interfaith organization, the Parliament cannot co-sponsor or co-host any event with political parties, politically partisan organizations or individuals, nor can it participate in the promotion of a political party or candidate, nor where self-identification of faith groups is challenged.
The world’s Hindu communities and spiritual leaders have long been a pillar of the worldwide interfaith movement and have played a key role in all of the modern Parliaments as well as the historic original Parliament in 1893. The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions wishes to maintain and increase its cordial and strong relationship with Hindu communities and individuals everywhere who share its mission. We call upon our Hindu friends and colleagues as well as our colleagues of all religions and spiritualties to move forward with us in a spirit of harmony, constructive dialogue and action to create a peaceful, just and sustainable world.
In the spirit of interfaith harmony, we would like to humbly offer to facilitate conversations with all those concerned who have approached the Parliament in this matter.
We reaffirm faith in the humanity of all sides and will redouble our efforts to engage in dialogue among all faith communities.
We also rededicate our Faith Against Hate campaign to all people of love who desire to touch and inspire the humanity of the other.
Finally, we continue to be inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s closing remarks at the 1893 Parliament:
“Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”