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Archive for the ‘Themes’ Category

Interfaith Activity Is Growing

From The Bellingham Herald

On Sept. 11, there was a remarkable gathering in Olympia. With only a few days’ notice, a standing-room-only crowd assembled at the Unitarian Universalist Church to stand with our Muslim neighbors and to listen to Imam Nabil read from the Quran.

Interfaith friends from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and other communities were present, and many held copies of their personal Quran. Following the translation, reading and comments on the text, an opportunity was presented for clergy to speak. Later, lay people were asked to comment. A general spirit of oneness and support pervaded the sanctuary. Without the threats to burn the Quran by a Florida-based minister, it’s not likely that this gathering would have happened. Those attending saw firsthand how threats and hatred can catalyze a spirit of curiosity, camaraderie and support. How many Americans met on or around the anniversary of 9/11 to stand with our Muslim neighbors?

It’s noteworthy that media coverage for the pastor threatening to burn the Quran appeared in newspapers, on the Internet and television for days. The gatherings for interfaith support representing hundreds of thousands of people throughout the United States barely received a column on the back page of newspapers or comment on television news programs, yet the emergence of meaningful interfaith gatherings is a reality in our world.

On Dec. 3, 2009, 10 months earlier and halfway around the world, I was present for the opening of the Parliament of World’s Religions, in Melbourne, Australia. Our gathering was a long-delayed vision of religious leaders who attended the first of these four gatherings in Chicago in 1893. At that time, to even consider religious leaders from distinctly different faith traditions meeting together, talking together, praying together and discussing the role both of themselves and their religions in the major issues of the world, was at best fanciful. Perhaps more to the point: unfaithful, undesirable and dangerous.

But 116 years and four parliaments later, more than 6,000 attendees arrived in all their costumery despite the distance, despite the recession, despite the political tensions between countries. Greetings were shared across the vast spaces of the brand new convention center in Melbourne as Sikhs and Jews, Catholics and Muslims, Christian and Buddhist greeted one another, friends from previous gatherings.

Monks created their sand mandalas. A scroll to be delivered to the Copenhagen Climate Summit spanned 40 feet or more, ready to receive signatures. We ate together, laughed and prayed together. We watched one another’s documentaries and listened to one another’s hearts. We listened, not to convert or change, but to understand. Aware that we share the common ground of love and kindness, we discussed major issues such as the rights of indigenous peoples, availability of water, peace on the planet and climate change.

The program book we received had 360 pages and 650 sessions. There was a lot to talk about and even more to learn from one another. The president of the United States sent a team to ask questions and learn how to support peace through the wisdom of faith leaders and programs already in place. Interestingly, most of the news coverage focused on a small group of people outside the convention protesting the use of public space for religious use.

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CPWR Chair Emeritus Rev. Bill Lesher Weighs In on Park51 Debate

FROM FIRE STORM TO ILLUMINATION:

Interreligious Reflections on the New York Center and Mosque Project

William Lesher, Chair Emeritus, Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions

What some in the media have referred to as “a fire storm” over the mosque debate in lower Manhattan is turning out to be a catalyst to launch a much needed national discussion (and tutorial) on Muslims in America.

Since this discussion was intensified by the exaggerated rhetoric and distorted claims of Pamela Geller, a conservative blogger in her post on May 6, a consensus seems to be forming among constitutionally committed citizens across the political spectrum.  Fair-minded people are agreeing that the Imam and his wife in charge of the mosque project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Daisy Khan and their supporters, have every right to expand their center and include a new worship space on the site.  They have worked from and worshipped in this place for many years, two blocks from the World Trade Center disaster.  Even though current polls claim that 7 out of 10 Americans oppose the project, opponents can hardly argue that the project planners do not have a constitutional right to carry out their vision.  As one letter to the NY Times editor put it, “As a legal matter, there is nothing to debate.  If a church or synagogue could be constructed on this site, so may a mosque.  Period. The first amendment means at least that.”

The location of the proposed Islamic Center touches the raw nerve that has elicited often shrill claims ranging from insensitivity to the families of the 9/11 victims and desecration of hallowed ground to an international Islamic conspiracy to subvert the nation.  Given the fact that the vast majority of Americans know little of Islam and know almost nothing of the history and intentions of the center planners in lower Manhattan, it is not surprising that the barrage of misinformation that initiated and continues to stoke the current national discussion has filled this vacuum and created the sharp negative and often heated responses.

But now, as the national discussion continues, one might cautiously hope, even anticipate, that the time is right for a nation-wide learning process to unfold.  This could become a time for Americans of fairness and goodwill to take the time to listen and to learn from people in the interreligious community and from Muslims themselves about the importance, the variety, and the beauty of this second largest religion in the world. And to hear as well, about the healing potential for having a thoroughly American expression of Islam close to the site of Ground Zero.

The Interreligious Movement in the US and around the world has been building bridges of understanding among religious communities, including Islam, for the last few decades.  Many religious people in the US are affiliated with local interreligious councils or with national and international organizations like United Religions Initiative (URI) or Religions for Peace (RFP) or have participated in one of the four modern Parliaments of the World’s Religions (PWR) with which I am affiliated. These people have led the way in this historic movement to develop knowledge, understanding, and respect for religious and spiritual communities of the world, many of whom have growing numbers of adherents in our towns and cities, states and nation.

People affiliated with the growing interreligious movement know about the great diversity that exists within Islam, not unlike the wide spectrum of beliefs, traditions and behaviors among different sectors in the Christian and Jewish communities. They know what William Dalrymple wrote about in an illuminating Op-Ed piece in the New York Times entitled, “The Muslims in the Middle,” that Islam is not a monolithic religion.  Rather it is as complex as Christianity and Judaism, with as many, perhaps more divisions, sects and traditions, some in opposition to others, as is true of every major religious group. Dalrymple helpfully teaches in his article how “Feisal Abdul Rauf…is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahabism of the jihadists.  His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God and reconciliation…..But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshipping apostate…”

Members of the interfaith movement are also leading the resistance to the resisters and need to do so more and more.  In another New York Times article describing protests against mosques in several communities around the country, Laurie Goodstein focuses on Temecula, Ca.  There she writes: “In late June …members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.”  She goes on to say that an estimated 20 – 30 people turned out to protest the mosque.  But then Ms. Goodstein states what many of us think is the real story in Temecula, “that the protesters were outnumbered by at least 75 supporters” who affirm the right of the Muslim congregation in Temecula to expand their mosque.  Something good is happening in Temecula when, less then a decade after 9/11, local citizens know and act on the difference between their mainstream Muslim neighbors and the terrorists whose actions violated the most basic tenants of Islam. It’s too bad that the NY Times headlined the Goodstein article, “Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Resistance” and missed the positive thrust of the Temecula story.

Speaking from the experience of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the 2004 Parliament in Barcelona, Spain focused major attention on the issue of Religiously Motivated and Experienced Violence.  After several days of intense workshop discussions, participants from across the interreligious spectrum, agreed that the minimum responsibility of religious communities  is to come to the aid of any religious community whose house of worship is the target of an attack, vandalism, threat or destruction.

The recent Parliament in Melbourne, Australia in 2009 featured a strong focus on IslamImam Feisal Abdul Rauf himself was a major presenter leading or participating in six interreligious programs with the following titles: “Applying Islamic Principles for a Just and Sustainable World”;  “Sacred Envy Panel: Exploring What We Love about Our Own Faith, What We Admire in Others and What Challenges Us in Both”;  “Purifying the Heart and Soul through Remembrance of Allah”; “Dhikr As An Islamic Devotional Act for Inner Peace”; “How Islam Deals with Social Justice, Gender Justice and Religious Diversity”; and “Islam and the West: Creating an Accord of Civilizations.”  How much could such a teacher of Islam help to bridge the gulf of misunderstanding about this great faith tradition by continuing his long and much admired ministry in lower Manhattan where he has built an international reputation for promulgating a modern version of Islam?

So, while some call it a “fire storm” and do their best to make it so, there are other voices that seem to be gaining strength.  Among the shouting and the uninformed outrage that sometimes seems ubiquitous, I sense that  responsible media outlets and people in the interreligious movement are grasping the significance of this moment and are helping to seed the discussion with historical facts, accurate information and a commitment to understanding and respect.  If this trend continues we will all learn important things about ourselves and about the most recent global religious tradition to enter the mainstream of American life.

A Reflection on the Parliament Indigenous Assembly

From Earth Spirit Voices

by Andras Corban Arthen

One of the most important events of the Parliament of the World’s Religions – the Indigenous Assembly – was, quite likely, the least visible: attendance was by invitation only, and it was held in a former convent several miles away from the Exhibition Center, where most of the other programs took place.

In keeping with one of the Parliament’s seven main themes (and as mentioned in these pages prior to the event), the idea of convening an Indigenous Assembly in Melbourne was, from the beginning, a major focus of the Indigenous Task Force’s plans – we wanted to create a space wherein the international representatives of Indigenous traditions traveling to Melbourne would get a chance to meet with their counterparts from Australia and the South Pacific to discuss issues of mutual relevance, and perhaps even come up with a joint statement to be delivered during one of the Parliament’s plenary sessions. Our initial plans called for a three-day assembly which, for the first two days, would be limited exclusively to the Indigenous delegates, then opened on the third day to include representatives from other cultures and religions. Unfortunately, budgetary and time constraints forced us to scale back our plans and keep the assembly to one day.

Early in the morning of Monday, 7 December, about fifty Indigenous representatives, volunteers and translators traveled to the Abbotsford Convent near Victoria Park, some six miles away. Most of us had already had breakfast, but upon arrival we were offered juice, pastries and other refreshments as we waited for everyone to arrive.

The proceedings started with a brief introduction by Task Force chair Omie Baldwin, followed by a traditional welcome to country by Auntie Joy Murphy Wandin, senior elder of the Wurundjeri people who are the traditional “owners” of the land that includes Melbourne. Wominjeka Wurundjeri Balluk yearmen koondi bik (“welcome to the land of the Wurundjeri People”), she intoned, as she did probably a dozen more times during the course of the Parliament; but each time she spoke those words they were like music, as fresh and as heartfelt as if she were saying them for the very first time, and we felt, indeed, very welcome. Auntie Joy had some very kind words to say to those of us who served on the Task Force and organized the event, and gave each of us an Aboriginal flag as a gift.

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Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim Discuss Thomas Berry, CPWR

From The Wisdom of the Labyrinth

Acclaimed cultural historian, cosmologist, Passionist priest, and Earth scholar, Thomas Berry, was among the first of our world’s religious leaders to suggest that the earth ecological crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis. Thomas Berry dedicated his life to The Great Work of our time which he described simply as “moving the human community from its present situation as a destructive presence on the planet to a benign or mutually enhancing presence.” Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker and Dr. John Grim, co-founders and co-directors of The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale and The Thomas Berry Foundation, join host Robin Bradley Hansel to share their stories and reflections on Thomas Berry’s life, his work, his writings, and his passionate dream for our Earth community.

Click here to hear the broadcast.

2009 Parliament Statement of Indigenous People

An Indigenous Peoples’ Statement to the World

Delivered at The Parliament of the World’s Religions

Convened at Melbourne, Australia

on the Traditional Lands

of the Wurundjeri  People of the Kulin Nation

December 9, 2009

PREAMBLE

In keeping with the theme of this year’s Parliament: “Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth,” We, the Indigenous Peoples participating in this Parliament hereby issue this statement:

We are Indigenous Peoples and Nations who honor our ancestors and care for our future generations by preserving our lands and cultures. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have maintained a fundamental and sacred relationship with Mother Earth. As peoples of the land, we declare our inherent rights to our present and continuing survival within our sacred homelands and territories throughout the world;

We commend the Australian government’s recent support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We call on all governments to support and implement the provisions of the UN Declaration.

Since time immemorial we have lived in keeping with our sacred laws, principles, and spiritual values, given by the Creator. Our ways of life are based on thousands of years of accumulated ecological knowledge, a great respect for our Mother Earth, a reverence and respect for all our Natural World relations and the survival of our languages, cultures, and traditions.

The Indigenous instructions of sharing and the responsibility of leadership to future generations are wise and enduring. As the traditional nations of our lands we affirm the right to educate our children in our earth-based education systems in order to maintain our indigenous knowledge systems and cultures. These have also contributed to our spiritual, physical and mental health;

Indigenous peoples concept of health and survival is holistic, collective and individual.

Indigenous Elders

It encompasses the spiritual, the intellectual, the physical and the emotional. Expressions of culture relevant to health and survival of Indigenous Peoples includes relationships, families, and kinship, social institutions, traditional laws, music, dances, songs and songlines, ceremonies and dreamtime, our ritual performances and practices, games, sports, language, mythologies, names, land, sea, water, every life forms, and all documented forms and aspects of culture, including burial and sacred sites, human genetic materials, ancestral remains, so often stolen, and our artifacts;

Unfortunately, certain doctrines have been threatening to the survival of our cultures, our languages, and our peoples, and devastating to our ways of life. These are found in particular colonizing documents such as the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493, which called for the subjugation of non-Christian nations and peoples and “the propagation of the Christian empire.” This is the root of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery that is still interwoven into laws and policies today that must be changed. The principles of subjugation contained in this and other such documents, and in the religious texts and documents of other religions, have been and continue to be destructive to our ways of life (religions), cultures, and the survival of our Indigenous nations and peoples. This oppressive tradition is what led to the boarding schools, the residential schools, and the Stolen Generation, resulting in the trauma of language death and loss of family integrity from the actions of churches and governments. We call on those churches and governments to put as much time, effort, energy and money into assisting with the revitalization of our languages and cultures as they put into attempting to destroy them.

The doctrines of colonization and dominion have laid the groundwork for contemporary problems of racism and dispossession. These problems include the industrial processes of resource exploitation and extraction by governments and corporations that has consistently meant the use of imposed laws to force the removal of Indigenous peoples from our traditional territories, and to desecrate and destroy our sacred sites and places. The result is a great depletion of biodiversity and the loss of our traditional ways of life, as well as the depletion and contamination of the waters of Mother Earth from mining and colonization.

Such policies and practices do not take into account that water is the first law of life and a gift from the Creator for all beings. Clean, healthy, safe, and free water is necessary for the continuity and well being of all living things. The commercialization and poisoning of water is a crime against life.

The negative ethics of contemporary society, discovery, conquest, dominion, exploitation, extraction, and industrialization, have brought us to today’s crisis of global warming. Climate change is now our most urgent issue and affecting the lives of indigenous peoples at an alarming rate. Many of our people’s lives are in crisis due to the rapid global warming. The ice melt in the north and rapid sea rise continue to accelerate, and the time for action is brief.

The Earth’s resources are finite and the present global consumption levels are unsustainable and continue to affect our peoples and all peoples. Therefore, we join the other members of the Parliament in calling for prompt, immediate, and effective action at Copenhagen to combat climate change;

On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In support of this historic event, the Episcopalian Church in the United States adopted a resolution at its 76th General Convention in July 2009, repudiating and disavowing the dehumanizing Doctrine of Christian Discovery. By doing so, the Church took particular note of the charter issued by King Henry VII of England to John Cabot and his sons, which authorized the colonizing of North America. It was by this ‘boss over’ tradition of Christian discovery that the British crown eventually laid claim to the traditional territories of the Aboriginal nations of the continent now called Australia, under terra nullius and terra nullus. This step by the Episcopalian Church was an act of conscience and moral leadership by one of the world’s major religions. Religious bodies of Quakers and Unitarians have taken similar supportive actions.

In Conclusion, we appeal to all people of conscience to join with us: We hereby call upon Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to publicly acknowledge and repudiate the papal decrees that legitimized the original activities that have evolved into the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Dominion.

Click here to download this document.

A Church for the 21st Century

From Soul’s Code

Soul's Code

BY DAVID RICKEY — Recently two events have changed my center of gravity. First, attending the Parliament for the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia in December of 2009 and then going to Haiti for the first time in June of 2010 and, at the same time, reading “The God Theory” by Bernard Haisch.

The Parliament gave me the opportunity to experience people from an amazing variety of spiritual perspectives, all talking and sharing in a way that opened my eyes further to the truth of the “interfaith” reality of TRUTH.

My trip to Haiti was my first encounter with incredible poverty as well as the resilience of the human spirit that I could see in the faces of the Haitian people. My reading “The God Theory” gave “solidity” to my own questions and emerging answers about this amazing mystery I call God.

To work backwards through that, it now seems clear to me that God is nothing less than “absolute intelligence” seeking to express itself and to experience this infinite possibility, especially, from a human point of view, through humans!

Taking this as my starting point, the world’s religions and spiritual paths then are the variety of ways in which human beings have tried to express their emerging awareness of this incredible wisdom, energy, presence, and creativity.

How we’ve made “God” work for us

We human beings, especially the sages among us, intuit this divine reality and then express it in whatever images and stories work for us. But the stories and images are limited to the level of awareness and the available images of the time they are formulated. And therefore, human development is reflected in the stories, really much more so than “ultimate truth”. This is not to say the stories are wrong, or not of value, but that they are limited, and perhaps their value is relatively short-lived.

On the other hand, the resilience of the human spirit, as experienced in the Haitian people, is a testament to the vast creative potential that lies “behind” all life, especially all human life. My experience of being among these wonderful people, especially the children, brought into sharp focus the amazing potential for creativity and responsiveness that is available to us.

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Faith Leaders Gather For Creation

The Rev. Dan Krutz, of Louisiana Interchurch Conference dips his hands into the oily waters of Barataria Bay.

The Rev. Dan Krutz, of Louisiana Interchurch Conference dips his hands into the oily waters of Barataria Bay.

From The Times-Picayune

Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy leaders from around the country cruised through the oil-fouled upper reaches of one of the nation’s richest seafood nurseries Wednesday, and some came away saying the BP Gulf oil spill looks to them not only like an accident, but also a sin.

“From my perspective, it’s an insult to God and a sin against creation,” said the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, an Episcopalian priest and environmentalist from San Francisco who heads Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit agency that helps congregations and communities adopt energy-saving techniques.

Bingham and almost a dozen others motored through the upper reaches of Barataria Bay on Wednesday, a day after assembling at First Grace United Methodist Church for a prayer service calling for restoration and renewal of the Gulf Coast.

“This is not a spill; it’s a spoilage” of God’s creation, the Rev. Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, told the congregation.

Oil spill a wake-up call

Bingham, Wallis and others framed the oil spill as a wake-up call with not only economic, but also moral dimensions to people of many faiths.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, head of the Rabbinical Assembly and its 1,600 Conservative rabbis nationwide, said the larger lesson of the spill is a call to reduce energy dependence on petroleum. “We all need to turn from short-term gratification … rather than indulge ourselves with this unlimited consumption,” she said.

Bingham, Wallis, Schonfeld and other visiting clergy from Washington, Chicago, California and elsewhere assembled in New Orleans on Tuesday for a three-day visit to see first-hand the effects of the spill.

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July 11th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

The Pluralism Project Features the 2009 Parliament in Melbourne

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University has released a video as part of its “Educating Religious Leaders for a Multi-Religious World” initiative. The video focuses on the 2009 Parliament in Melbourne and the Council’s partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation. This partnership allowed for students and faculty of 15 theological institutions in the U.S. to participate at the Melbourne Parliament. While there, they expressed their findings as well as questions they encountered as members of a broader experience leading up to the events in Melbourne, which included coursework at their respective universities centered upon this theme of preparing religious leaders in a multi-religious world.

Click here to be taken to The Pluralism Project’s site.

Indigenous Assembly Addresses Doctrine of Discovery

From the Lewis and Clark Law Library,

Indigenous Peoples at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne Australia called for the Catholic Church to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.

Indian Country Today reported in part: “The Doctrine, a fundamentally racist philosophy from the 15th century, continues to allow powerful nation-states to dehumanize people and devastate the living earth in their endless search for resources and markets, the delegation said.

Indigenous peoples from around the world, including a Haudenosaunee delegation, attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia Dec. 3 – 9. The Parliament is an interfaith organization formed in 1893 “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.” It meets every five years.

While the delegates came from diverse geographies and cultures, they easily unified around the intersecting themes of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and climate change. . .

Click here to read more.

Citizen Journalists Cover the Parliament: Youth

Australia’s ABC TV youth video team covers Day 6 of the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, focusing on youth at the Parliament.