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Archive for the ‘Interreligious Movement’ Category

Reflections on Charleston and the Path to Unity

By Robert C. Henderson
Parliament Trustee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again our hearts are broken by acts of senseless violence—murders driven by the cancerous madness of racism. And once again the scene is a church, where God fearing souls gathered for Bible study and worship—spiritual fellowship and love, were taken from their families and friends in the vain hope of prompting a racial holy war.

While families and friends grieve and forgive, people of good will and faith offer support and prayers, and politicians make statements, Americans would benefit from deep reflection on the underlying cause of racial division, the heavy price we pay for hate, and the rising sun of racial amity and concord slowly illuminating the darkness of our divided past.

For devastating as they are, these savage acts of violence against innocent souls can neither alter nor prevent the slowly growing acceptance of the oneness of humankind and the reordering of social life to accommodate the requirements of equality.

Throughout America, studies show that interracial cooperation is rising in virtually every aspect of social life. Interracial children are among the fastest growing populations in the country. Faith communities, work places, social organizations, and neighborhoods are all rapidly diversifying; while significant percentages of all groups are marrying people of different colors.

We weep for Charleston, but we must never lose sight of the real change gaining momentum in America: race hate is dying and race amity is our future.

To focus our reflections we offer a few excerpts from “The Vision of Race Unity—America’s Most Challenging Issue,” a statement by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.

(The statement can be read in its entirety at www.usbahai.org)

Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. –The Baha’i Writings

Racism is the most challenging issue confronting America. A nation whose ancestry includes every people on earth, whose motto is E pluribus Unum, whose ideals of freedom under law have inspired millions throughout the world, cannot continue to harbor prejudice against any racial or ethnic group without betraying itself. Racism is an affront to human dignity, a cause of hatred and division, a disease that devastates society…

Notwithstanding the efforts already expended for its elimination, racism continues to work its evil upon this nation. Progress toward tolerance, mutual respect, and unity has been painfully slow and marked with repeated setbacks. The recent resurgence of divisive racial attitudes, the increased number of racial incidents, and the deepening despair of minorities and the poor make the need for solutions ever more pressing and urgent. To ignore the problem is to expose the country to physical, moral and spiritual danger…

Having gone through the stages of infancy and turbulent adolescence, humanity is now approaching maturity, a stage that will witness “the reconstruction and demilitarization of the whole civilized world–a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life.”

In no other country is the promise of organic unity more immediately demonstrable than in the United States because this country is a microcosm of the diverse populations of the earth. Yet this promise remains largely unrealized even here because of the endemic racism that, like a cancer, is corroding the vitals of the nation…

The application of the spiritual principle of the oneness of humanity to the life of the nation would necessitate and make possible vast changes in the economic status of the non-white segments of the population. Although poverty afflicts members of all races, its victims tend to be largely people of color. Prejudice and discrimination have created a disparity in standards of living, providing some with excessive economic advantage while denying others the bare necessities for leading healthy and dignified lives. Poor housing, deficient diet, inadequate health care, insufficient education are consequences of poverty that afflict African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans more than they afflict the rest of the population. The cost to society at large is heavy…

The persistent neglect by the governing bodies and the masses of the American people of the ravages of racism jeopardizes both the internal order and the national security of the country.

From the day it was born the United States embraced a set of contradictory values. The founding fathers proclaimed their devotion to the highest principles of equality and justice yet enshrined slavery in the Constitution. Slavery poisoned the mind and heart of the nation and would not be abolished without a bloody civil war that nearly destroyed the young republic. The evil consequences of slavery are still visible in this land. They continue to affect the behavior of both Black and White Americans and prevent the healing of old wounds…

Our appeal is addressed primarily to the individual American because the transformation of a whole nation ultimately depends on the initiative and change of character of the individuals who compose it. No great idea or plan of action by the government or other interested organizations can hope to succeed if the individual neglects to respond in his or her own way as personal circumstances and opportunities permit. And so we respectfully and urgently call upon our fellow Americans of whatever background to look at the racial situation with new eyes and with a new determination to lend effective support to the resolution of a problem that hinders the advance of this great republic toward the full realization of its glorious destiny…”



Robert C. Henderson is an elected member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, the Baha’i Faith’s senior national administrative institution. Dr. Henderson also serves as a Developer and President of the Philanthropic Division of Baharicom Development Company, co-builder of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE)/Uhurunet submarine cable system. In its planned configuration, the 17,000 km-long fiber optic cable will stretch from France to South Africa and will be operational in the first half of 2012, connecting 23 countries and providing broadband capacity grants to thousands of schools, hospitals and social development projects.

Join the Moral Imperative to End Extreme Poverty

According to UNICEF, 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty.

In 2013, the World Bank Group endorsed the dual goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting the incomes of the bottom 40% around the world. Extreme poverty is already on the decline: In 1990, 36% of the world’s population were living in extreme poverty compared with just 18% in 2010, a 50% reduction. This would appear to bring the end of extremem poverty within reach. However, recognizing that it can’t achieve this goal alone, the World Bank has reached out to religious leaders, organization, and activists to help endorse this goal and ensure the project’s success.

On February 18, 2015, WBG President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim convened a large group of religious leaders to discuss these goals and create sustainable plans for the future. In preparation, a group of interfaith leaders drafted “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative,” a statement addressing the imperative for religious traditions to end extreme poverty.

Read the full statement here >

As part of our commitment to fulfill the moral and spiritual imperative for ending extreme poverty, the Parliament has added its name to a list of 35 guiding institutions who have endorsed the World Bank’s call. To build upon the momentum of faith communities and individuals partnering on this effort, the Parliament encourages all communities and individuals working on economic justice issues to sign on. Your endorsement of this imperative will be included to the global list of like-minded people who are committed to achieving this goal.

Add your name and/or organization as an endorser today!

June 9th, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Announcing Parliament Grants to Strengthen Grassroots Interfaith Movements

 

Inviting Grassroots Interfaith Organizations to Grow with the Parliament

Let’s Strengthen Our Movement Together.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions will be awarding several grants to interfaith organizations in the United States, ranging from USD $5,000 to $30,000 on a competitive basis.

Priority will be given to initiatives seeking to expand their communication reach and connecting with guiding institutions (media, government, etc.), as well as initiatives seeking to counter hate and prejudice while fostering empathy and compassion.

However, any organization is free to apply.

Awards will be announced after July 1, 2015.

Apply by June 20 to stake your claim in funding your grassroots interfaith movement!

The Parliament of the World’s Religions Awards Three of Burma’s Leading Monks at Norway’s Nobel Institute

“These extraordinary monks challenge the widespread perception that all Buddhist monks clamor for violence against the Rohingyas,” Parliament Chair Imam Malik Mujahid said presenting the awards to Burmese Buddhist leaders His Holiness Rev. Seindita, His Holiness Rev. Withudda, and His Holiness Rev. Zawtikka.

Three Buddhist monks returned home to Burma last week from the Nobel Institute with World Harmony Awards, presented by the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik of the Christian Democratic Party joined Imam Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, in awarding the monks at the opening of the Oslo Conference to Stop the Systematic Persecution of Burma’s Rohingya.

“These extraordinary monks challenge the widespread perception that all Buddhist monks clamor for violence against the Rohingyas,” Mujahid said presenting the awards to His Holiness Rev. Seindita, His Holiness Rev. Withudda, and His Holiness Rev. Zawtikka.

The World Harmony Awards recognized acts of “fostering compassion, kindness, and harmony among faith communities in Myanmar,” where more than one thousand Rohingya Muslims survived violence by being protected inside of Buddhist monasteries.

Rev. Seindita proclaimed, “they will have to kill me first,” before allowing aggressors to harm the Rohingya masses.

In his remarks, Mujahid said that the three honorees personify the Golden Rule- describing it as both the maxim of the interfaith movement, and also the beacon of all peace and justice movements.

“The Buddha proclaimed that we must love and care for all creatures. The Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, said that none of you are truly believers unless you wish for another what you wish for yourself. These teachings are at the heart of all our faiths, where the beauty of religion is rooted.”

He continued, “While fear, anger and hate rises in America and communities around the world, people of compassion are rising to demonstrate neighborly loving relationships. We must become our brother’s keeper.”

The Parliament was a co-sponsor of the meetings held at the prestigious Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo, Norway.

Participants from 16 different countries, including Rohingya activists, Buddhist monks, Christian clergy, and Muslim leaders from Myanmar converged with genocide scholars to adopt a statement pressing for immediate international action.

The two-day conference concluded with an additional call to action from seven Nobel Peace Laureates, describing the plight of the Rohingya as nothing less than a genocide.

The Parliament plans to further highlight the bravery of interfaith activists challenging genocide in the region in a plenary focusing on war, violence and hate speech at the 2015 Parliament this October in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Background information on the conference: The conference was co-organized and co-sponsored by the following organizations. However, the communiqué was adopted by the attendees of the conference without any approach to the respective organizations.

Justice for All, Burma Task Force USA; Parliament of the World’s Religions; Refugees International (USA); International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) Queen Mary University of London; Harvard Global Equality Initiative (HGEI); Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).

Imam Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions served as Co-Chair

Links to transcripts and images

The Oslo Conference statement can be accessed by visiting BurmaMuslims.org.

Link to the official transcripts of the recorded messages including that of Archbishop Tutu and George Soros

Link to their video recordings

Links to some of the news coverage:

Parliament Stands with Pope Francis in His Global Effort on Climate Change

PARLIAMENT STATEMENT ON THE ETERNAL WORLD TELEVISION NETWORK’S
ATTACK ON POPE FRANCIS FOR HIS UPCOMING ENCYCLICAL ON CLIMATE
CHANGE

The recent attack on Pope Francis’s integrity and credibility regarding climate change and integral ecology during a recent broadcast on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is deeply disturbing. The Pope’s imminent encyclical on climate change and integral ecology, from all indications, will be rooted in fundamental Catholic understandings about creation that go back for centuries. In addition, he has consulted with a wide array of scientific and moral experts through the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences. The charge that he is being “duped” on the issue of climate change is entirely without foundation.

As an interreligious organization the Parliament does not involve itself in the internal affairs of particular religious and spiritual communities. But we are convinced that the climate change issue transcends particularistic religious boundaries and we see Pope Francis as serving all humanity and the entirety of creation through this forthcoming encyclical. Hence we stand with Pope Francis in his global effort on climate change.

POLICE AND JUDICIAL ABUSE OF LAW AND FREEDOM: a Public Statement by the Parliament of the World’s Religions

POLICE AND JUDICIAL ABUSE OF LAW AND FREEDOM

A Public Statement by the Parliament of the World’s Religions

Recent and recurring events across the United States that have raised questions about the role and responsibilities of the police and judicial officials and the permissible latitude of their actions within the law should be cause for serious reflection, including religious reflection, on how both order and freedom must be honored in contemporary society.

Law as an operative principle and expression of order serves an essential role in both sacred and secular realms, just as freedom plays a key function on behalf of change in these spheres. In both religious and civic life, order and freedom have a universal character, which assumes an equality of application. The breaking of law and the abuse of freedom invite disruption and even disintegration in the lives of individuals and societies.

Those entrusted with the provision of law enforcement and the protection of freedom, therefore, play extraordinarily important functions for human beings and in human communities. The duties assigned to judicial and police officers include not just the enforcement of the law but also the provisions for public safety, the promotion of peace, and the protection of individual and group rights. In carrying out these fundamental functions and often times dangerous duties, these public servants deserve respect and compliance.

But public agents of law and freedom cannot themselves engage in the violation of laws or the excesses of freedom and still expect to receive respect and compliance. These public agents cannot be permitted to be exceptions to the provisions of laws and freedoms that apply universally to those they are called to serve. More importantly, such violations and excesses by public agents of law and freedom have disastrous consequences for the social order, for the common good, and for human flourishing in its many forms.

The recent events of this kind in the United States must be addressed by both religious and civic communities. This is especially the case when the violation of laws and the excesses of freedom by public agents continue to be directed against members of groups who have historically been subject to abuse by overt actions or neglect.

Besides the growing number of individual incidents of injury and death by police officers against persons of color, a recent media report told of a million and a half African American men who were missing in the United States because of early deaths and incarceration.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions decries this condition of abuse and neglect across the world and in the United States. The Parliament calls on people of faith and conscience everywhere to join together in interfaith movements committed to the universal and equal protection of just laws and human freedoms and to a non-violent mobilization for justice, compassion, and peace.

The World’s Religions Bring Compassion to Nepal

Nepalese survivors stand strong as village recovers with aid from the UK Department for International Development. Photo credit: UK DFID.

By Parliament Staff

The Parliament of the World’s Religions stands in awe over the collaborations of faith communities in helping the people of Nepal. Our prayers are with the nation now and always.

In the aftermath of the devastating April 25th, 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal, faith communities are stepping up to coordinate relief efforts. Stories emerging on the first days of recovery illustrate the possibility of human compassion on a mass scale.

Nepalese member of the Parliament’s Ambassador program, Dadhiram Khanal, reports by e-mail that his community is safe after one week without electricity. Over the past few days, Khanal and his family have been collecting relief funds through Alliance for Peace, Education and Development (APED) around the country and elsewhere.

News of faith communities uniting demonstrate how widespread the service of religion can be in times of disaster; Kathamandu’s Buddhist nuns are gaining international attention for employing ‘kung-fu’ to salvage monastic grounds, while Vatican Radio reports that Nepal’s religions are “united for earthquake victims” and exemplifying interfaith values:

The Venerable Renchen, representative of the Buddhist community, and Manohar Prasad Sah of the ‎Hindu community said: ‘We are doing our best, and when religions come together they can meet ‎the basic needs of the people. Solidarity, peace and charity are concepts shared by all.

Love and Assistance Pours in from Global Faith Neighbors

Providing meals to those unable to secure food and water continues pose a significant challenge. To aid earthquake victims, Sikh leaders from The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India are distributing one hundred thousand food packets. Taiwan’s Buddhist leaders have donated food, blankets, and other items to those displaced by the disaster. Meanwhile, Singapore masjids are collecting money to send to Nepal and Iran’s Red Crescent Society is sending 40 tons of relief supplies including tents, blankets, dishware, and moquette to the region. Lutheran World Relief, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Catholic Relief Services, and Gospel for Asia have sent volunteers to assist crews on the ground in Nepal while World Jewish Relief has announced an emergency appeal campaign for survivors.

The United States government has already pledged $10 million in relief. Nonprofit organizations like Save the Children, The American Red Cross, and others continue their appeal for more donations to send to the region.

At this stage of response, workers of municipal agencies are attempting to recover as many ancient sacred artifacts as possible from the rubble of leveled temples and World Heritage sites in the region, NPR reports.

The disaster is garnering global support, with both faith-based and secular organizations making major strides in providing aid for survivors. The outpouring of monetary donations, relief supplies, and on-the-ground rescue volunteers demonstrates the compassion embedded in all faiths. These efforts represent only the initial steps in providing necessary relief to Nepalese communities, giving a glimpse at what the coming months will hold as the nation moves forward in rebuilding after the tragedy.

Parliament Communications Staff Nafia Khan contributed to this article. 

May 5th, 2015 at 10:41 am

Mexico’s Carpe Diem Hosting Major Interfaith Conference May 6 – 8

The Parliament strongly expresses support for Interfaith foundation Carpe Diem in presenting Mexico’s second Multicultural Universal Dialogue coming May 6 – 8 in Guadalajara, Jalisco. An international roster of speakers will explore spiritual, scientific, academic and intercultural perspectives on enhancing cooperation across cultures. Many will hail from across Mexico’s religious and indigenous landscape with international guests traveling in from other countries.

One such speaker will be Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid.

With congratulations to Carpe Diem on its significant achievement for interfaith within Mexico, the Parliament regards this gathering as a benefit to the entire global interfaith community. “I am very much looking forward to being there,” Mujahid says, adding that he sends his best wishes to the organizers of their third major event.

Chair Mujahid will bring a flavor to the conference tying in with values close to both the organizers of DMU and the 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake City.

Click here to register for the Multicultural Universal Diologue and to learn more information.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions Celebrates the World Bank Faith Partnership to End Extreme Poverty by 2030

Photo: rebelmouse.com via worldbank.org

More than 30 religious leaders and faith-based organizations have endorsed a global call for ending extreme poverty. The World Bank’s April 9 release of Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative explains the moral obligation shared between faith communities to end the systems which create extreme poverty.

“When we in the interfaith movement commit our faith and action with the will to make it happen, incredible progress is possible,” says Parliament Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson.  “The Parliament fully endorses the moral imperative, and welcomes the opportunity to work with the World Bank, the United Nations, and other international partners to relieve more than 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty.”

The statement follows a high-level meeting between World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and faith leaders earlier this year as part of its commitment to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

The timing syncs with the growing concern of interfaith leaders to make measurable progress on global crises.

“Poverty is a moral issue. The 2015 Parliament will have a special track on the widening wealth gap and income inequity,” says Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Parliament Board Chair. Mujahid continues, “We will invite the 10,000 participants of 80 countries and 50 religious and spiritual traditions of the 2015 Parliament to make a commitment to engage the guiding institutions of their respective countries, to make extreme poverty a thing of the past through changes in public policy, and to facilitate a balanced relationship between labor and capital to achieve just distribution of wealth.”

As the mother of the modern global interfaith movement, the Parliament of the World’s Religions aims to foster harmony across the world’s religious and spiritual institutions and to engage with the world’s powers to achieve a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

Since its introduction at the 1993 Parliament, the Global Ethic established a consensus of the world’s religions on critical global issues such as extreme poverty. The advancement of the Global Ethic stands stronger than ever today with the World Bank’s commitment with interfaith partners to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. The Parliament welcomes engagement with global partners to mobilize interfaith action for sustainable development and to end extreme poverty.

Read the Statement and Get Involved

The Parliament invites the global interfaith community to contribute to conversations on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #Faith2EndPoverty.

Additionally, all are invited to tune into the full coverage on April 15 where World Bank President Dr. Kim will lead a panel discussion with faith-based organization leaders.

World Bank’s Statement
Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative

Our common understanding

As leaders from diverse religious traditions, we share a compelling vision to end extreme poverty by the year 2030. For the first time in human history, we can do more than simply envision a world free of extreme poverty; we can make it a reality. Accomplishing this goal will take two commitments: to act guided by the best evidence of what works and what doesn’t; and to use our voices to compel and challenge others to join us in this urgent cause inspired by our deepest spiritual values.

The world has achieved remarkable progress in the past two decades in cutting in half the number of people living in extreme poverty. We have ample evidence from the World Bank Group and others showing that we can now end extreme poverty within fifteen years. In 2015, our governments will be deciding upon a new global sustainable development agenda that has the potential to build on our shared values to finish the urgent task of ending extreme poverty.

We in the faith community embrace this moral imperative because we share the belief that the moral test of our society is how the weakest and most vulnerable are faring. Our sacred texts also call us to combat injustice and uplift the poorest in our midst. No one, regardless of sex, age, race, or belief, should be denied experiencing the fullness of life.

Our shared moral consensus

This is why the continued existence of extreme poverty in a plentiful world offends us so deeply. Our faith is tested and our hearts are broken when, in an age of unprecedented wealth and scientific advancement, so many still live in degrading conditions. We know too well that extreme poverty thwarts human purpose, chokes human potential, and affronts human dignity. In our increasingly interconnected world, there is enough to ensure that no one has to fight for their daily survival.

Ending extreme poverty will require a comprehensive approach that tackles its underlying causes—including preventable illness, a lack of access to quality education, joblessness, corruption, violent conflicts, and discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and other groups. It will also necessitate a change in the habits that cause poverty—greed and waste, numbness to the pain of others, and exploitation of people and the natural world. It calls for a holistic and sustainable approach that transforms cultures and institutions, and hearts as well as minds.

In too many parts of the world, women and girls are consigned to second class status, denied access to education and employment, and victimized by violence, trafficking, and rape. Until each and every person is afforded the same basic rights, none of us can truly flourish.

We must also state unequivocally that ending extreme poverty without mitigating climate change and combating inequality will be impossible. Climate change is already disproportionately hurting people living in poverty. Extreme inequality, within and between countries, contradicts our shared religious values, exacerbates social and political divisions, and will impede progress. What is needed is a new paradigm of socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth.

Our call to action

We believe that now is the time to end the scourge of extreme poverty—by restoring right relationships among people, affirming human dignity, and opening the door to the holistic development of all people. If we were more committed to living these common values there would be less poverty in the world.

Our shared convictions call us to empower and uplift— not denigrate—those living in poverty, so that they can become agents of their own transformation. We must abandon a politics that too often marginalizes their voices, blames them for their condition, and exacerbates extremes of inequality. Now is the time to turn fatigue into renewed commitment, indifference into compassion, cynicism into hope, and impotence into a greater sense of agency that we can and will end extreme poverty by 2030.

We commit to working together to end the scandal of extreme poverty. We will act, advocate, educate, and collaborate, both among ourselves and with broader initiatives. And we commit to holding all levels of leadership accountable—public and private, domestic and international.

Our approach to this staggering need must be holistic, rooted in the spiritual visions of our respective faiths, and built on a shared recognition of the intrinsic dignity and value of every life on Earth.

Realizing this shared goal will require a revolution in social and political will, as well as new innovations and greater collaboration across sectors. We call on international organizations, governments, corporations, civil society, and religious communities, to play their essential parts and join with us in this critical cause.

Poverty’s imprisonment of more than a billion men, women and children must end. Now is the time to boldly act to free the next generation from extreme poverty’s grip.

Sharing 5 Lessons on Non-Proliferation and the Interfaith Movement

By Parliament UN Youth Representative: Tahil Sharma

The United Religions Initiative organized a great panel of activists and ambassadors who work with communities through URI’s ‘Cooperation Circles’ across the globe to make nuclear weapons a thing of the past. People like Jonathan Granoff, a 2014 nominee for the Nobel Peace prize for his work advocating nuclear non-proliferation, and Dot Maver, an activist within the interfaith and peace-building spectrum, gave a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the potentials of nuclear energy and our current capabilities and uses in potentially destroying our world.

This webinar gave tools to productively say “NO!” to the atom and hydrogen bombs which threaten the greatest potential of destroying our environment and our civilization as we know it.

  1. Remembering the everlasting impact – Meltdowns like Chernobyl and Fukushima, the obliterating potential of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the continued tests of nuclear weapons has a lasting effect on many people around the world and our environment. Believe it or not, victims of the atom bombing on Japan today face significant social and political stigma. They are stereotyped and treated as second-class citizens, which is preventing them from speaking out about their experiences. Some of the worst discrimination sees forms of insurance withheld that would help to treat ongoing side effects of the blasts. The majority of society apathetically forgets that our current nuclear weaponry has the potential to destroy the world a thousand times over. (Random fact: Japan has set up a stratified system of coverage for those affected by the bombs based on distance, the manner in which they received any form of radiation poisoning, and depending on the age group. Children within the womb during the blast, for example, are not eligible for coverage or benefits.)
  2. The non-signatories of the NPT – Israel, India, Pakistan, South Sudan and North Korea have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which mandates only the peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the goal of complete disarmament. This plays out as a great challenge for the security and stability of the world, so we continue to find and build movements for non-violence and conflict resolution. Pranab Mukherjee, the then External Affairs Minister and now current President of India, stated in a trip to India in 2007 that “If India did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because we consider NPT as a flawed treaty and it did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment.” (India Times, 5/23/07) The ambiguity of such a statement can be dangerous, seeing that the continued competition for arms and the instability of peace talks between India and Pakistan could create a sense of discomfort and anxiety in the matter of growing political, social, and economic power. With all of this in mind, the speakers continued to reaffirm our ability as a civil society; as interfaith leaders and activists, we have the power to make a difference and influence the decisions necessary in abhorring and abolishing nuclear weapons.
  3. Storytelling Holds Great Potential – From the personal stories of transformation of the Hibakusha (Survivors of the Atomic bombs in Japan) to live in the 21st century, to the new generations that demand no harm to any innocent human beings, every story has its potential to change minds, strengthen hearts, and move forward. URI UN Representative Monica Willard made note of such power by reciting the poem 20,000,000 by Justine Merritt. In a few succinct moments, she verbalized the potential of annihilation that a nuclear weapon threatens by enumerating the figure 20 million, accounting for the count of lives in the state of California. How profound and bleak a future sounds when you know it can be obliterated in seconds.
  4. The Groundswell of the Common Man – There are a variety of ways that we, as individuals, can work together to change the status quo. Consider petitions like the Peace and Planet Petition for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (that will be presented to the United Nations on April 26th), planting A-Bomb Surviving Saplings in your community and hosting A-Bomb photo exhibitions, and believing we have the potential to stand up against the destruction of humanity and the biosphere. We must engage communities and organizations around the world, and collaborate in activism, education, and service, to raise awareness and empathy in friends and strangers alike. “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This same potential can reach the highest levels through encouraging legislators and members of parliaments to join the Parliamentarians for Nuclear non-Proliferation and Disarmament to influence policy and law in the abolition of the nuclear use of weapons.
  5. Reflecting on the Power In Our Hands – Before we began the webinar, Rt. Rev. Bill Swing, Founder and President of the United Religions Initiative, read a prayer that reminded me of the beauty and power of all faith traditions, secular perspectives, and spiritual practices; it reminded me that the power to create and destroy was in the hands of all human beings. My own faith traditions of Hinduism and Sikhism have always reminded me that every good and bad action is accounted for and that I am immediately repaid through the karma I deserve. If it is not in my mind and heart that I must work to change and save the world in every way possible, I am doing a disservice to myself, the world and to the Divine I eternally devote myself to.