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Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago Commemorates Parliament of the World’s Religions Anniversaries

Dear Members and Friends of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions:

As Mayor and on behalf of the City of Chicago, I am pleased to welcome all of those gathered for both the 120th & 20th anniversary celebrations for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

It is truly exciting to know what an important role Chicago has played in the 120 years since the inaugural Parliament of the World’s Religions was held here, and then 20 years ago in the second – the 1993 Parliament. The 1893 Chicago Parliament opened the door for the interreligious movement and that event brought together thousands of people from all over the world. It marked a pivotal moment for many different religions and spiritual communities from the east and west coming together around a common commitment to justice and peace.

In 1993, the second Parliament introduced a Global Ethics Initiative that maintains a vision of people living peacefully together and sharing responsibility for the care of the earth while identifying the common commitments that come out of different belief traditions. In Chicago, we know there’s a need for this important work. When religious and spiritual communities combine their strengths and commitments, a more just, peaceful and sustainable world is the result.

These special anniversary celebrations and benefits represent an ongoing commitment to thoughtful, enduring work. The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions not only unites people of spirit and faith to engage with the issues of our time, but also mobilizes efforts to combat bias and hate. I offer heartfelt congratulations on this auspicious occasion and recognize all of those
involved.

I am confident that Chicago will continue to be a central meeting place for the Council for a
Parliament of the World’s Religions. Best wishes for much continued success.

Sincerely,

Rahm Emanuel

Mayor

Honoring Our Jain Delegate from India at 1893 Parliament: Lawyer Virchand Raghavji Gandhi (1864-1901)

Virchand Gandhi, Delegate representing Jainism at 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions

For many years, an indelible delegate to the Parliament has not been found within the 1893 Parliament’s archival history on this site. The Parliament is pleased to introduce the name Virchand Gandhi to the roster of dynamic Indian delegates celebrated during this important anniversary year.

For the 1893’s Parliament of World Religions, originally the most acclaimed Jain Priest, Muni Atmaramji, was invited to represent Jainism. His photo and details were printed in Rev. John. H. Barrows official book (Page 21& 56). When it became evident Rev. Muni Atmaramji could not attend, his disciple, Lawyer Virchand Raghavji Gandhi, was deputed to represent Jainism.

As a Jain delegate, Virchand Gandhi captivated the 1893’s Parliament of World Religions.

In Rev. J.H.Barrow’s book Virchand Gandhi’s following speeches are recorded:

  1. Welcome speech on Opening Day in afternoon session (September 11, 1893)
  2. Speech on the philosophy and ethics of the Jains
  3. A patriotic speech in reference to the allegations of the previous day against the morality of the Hindu religions (audience applauded on his every word
  4. A closing speech whereby Virchand Gandhi was greeted with much applause as he came forward to speak on last day.

Virchand Gandhi was one of the chief exporters of the Jain Religion from India and was the secretary of Jain Association of India. For East Indian Delegates, a dinner was arranged by Rev. J. Henry Barrows and William Pipe before the commencement of 1893’s Parliament which was attended by Virchand Gandhi and other Indian delegates.

Two more important movements were floated after 1893’s, Parliament of World Religions closed, and in both committees the name of Virchand Gandhi appeared as a committee member along with Dr. Paul Carus and other team mates.

On Sale Now: Speaker Program and Reception (Only!) Discounted Tickets for Parliament Benefit

Attention students, clergy, and compassionate Chicagoans!  Tickets are now on sale for the afternoon program and reception of Living Out the Vision,  Saturday, November 16 at the Chicago Sinai Congregation.

The 120/20-year anniversary benefit of the Parliament of the World’s Religions afternoon program has brought together a schedule of four distinguished speakers on the history of the interfaith movement and its unique Chicago roots.

Tickets to the afternoon program and reception are now $150 $50.00 and can be purchased here.

Participants will interact with speakers on the following groundbreaking areas of Interfaith:

  • The Global Ethic with Dr. Daniel Gomez-Ibáñez
  • Women of the 1893 Parliament with Dr. Allison Stokes
  • Swami Vivekananda with Swami Varadananda
  • The Impact of the Parliament of the World’s Religions with Dr. Martin E. Marty
At 5:30 p.m. we welcome all program guests to a special reception. This is a special opportunity with the Parliament’s legacy leaders to meet rising stars in the interfaith movement. College and seminary students are especially encouraged to participate. 

Thank you for your interest in the benefit dinner which has sold out.  Sponsorship and benefactor information is available through consultation with Development Associate, Brian Savage, 312 – 629 – 2990 ext. 233

The Founding Females of Interreligious Leadership, Scholarship, and Service

Celebrating the role of women in the 1893 Parliament, pioneers of the interfaith movement, is the passion of scholar Rev. Allison Stokes, Ph.D. Ambassador for the Parliament of World Religions and Founding Director of the Women’s Interfaith Institute of the Finger Lakes. An accomplished professor and historian, Dr. Stokes is pursuing publishing a book on the prominent women’s voices in the history of interfaith. Dr. Stokes will be speaking on this research at the Living Out The Vision program and dinner benefit of the 20th/120th anniversaries of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, November 16, in Chicago, IL. This article is an excerpt of this body of work and the second installation of the Parliament Anniversary Series.

Looking Back to 1848 and 1893: Feminist Pioneers  in Inter-Religious Leadership, Scholarship and Service

When Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott created the Declaration of Sentiments, a document that 68 women and 32 men signed at the first women’s rights convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY, they had specific things to say about “the usurpations on the part of man toward woman” when it came to the subject of religion.

Among their grievances: “He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself.  As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known….” 

Furthermore, “He allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church…” 

And finally,He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.”[i]

Forty-five years later, at the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition (more commonly known as the Chicago World’s Fair), the situation was different.  Progress had been made.  

When the Rev. Anna Howard Shaw, MD, gave a sermon at the closing event of the World’s Congress of Representative Women held during the opening month of the fair in 1893, on the platform with her were 18 ordained clergywomen from 13 different Christian denominations.  Shaw opened her message in a manner that was extraordinary.   She began, as expected, with a text from the New Testament, but immediately followed it with readings from the religion of Zoroaster, Buddhism, the “Mohammedan scriptures,” and Confucius.[ii]  Throughout her message Shaw demonstrated a global feminism and inclusive vision that viewed in retrospect was a preview to the first World’s Parliament of Religions that would be held at the fair four months later.

Although Elizabeth Cady Stanton did not attend the first world’s Parliament of Religions in September 1893, she wrote a paper for the occasion that was delivered by

Susan B. Anthony—“The Worship of God in Man.”  This was just one of 19 speeches delivered by women in the massive building (with halls that seated 5,000 people) that is now the Art Institute of Chicago.  Feminist scholars of religion owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Ursula King for her article, “Rediscovering Women’s Voices at the World’s Parliament of Religions.”[iii]  Here Dr. King points out that ten percent of the addresses given at the Parliament were given by women. This proportion is stunning considering that at the time it was considered improper for women to speak in public, and many were ostracized for doing so.  Feminist scholars also owe a debt of gratitude to the Rev. Dr. John Henry Barrows for publishing before year’s end in 1893 the papers of the World’s Parliament, and so preserving a record of women’s contributions.[iv]  At the conclusion of the Parliament Barrows observed, “The Congress was a notable event… for woman, for then she secured the largest recognition of her intellectual rights ever granted.”[v]  Unfortunately, not much at all has been made of this fact in histories of Women in Religion.Inspired and surprised by the achievements of our foremothers, I have been doing research on Women’s Voices at the 1893 World’s Parliament. In December 2009 I presented a PowerPoint lecture on the topic at the 5th Parliament of World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia. People were amazed: “Why don’t we know about this?”  Indeed.

Recovering the stories of women who were earliest pioneers in the interfaith movement is an ongoing project of mine.  I look forward to sharing some of what I have learned in Chicago on November 16th at the anniversary celebration of the first Parliament 120 years ago and the second Parliament a century later—20 years ago.

Julia Ward Howe
“What is, and What is Not, Religion?”

Fannie Barrier Williams
“The Religious Mission of the Colored Race”

Celia Parker Woolley
“The World’s Religious Debt to America”


[i]www.nps.gov/archive/wori/declaration.htm

[ii] Sewall, May Wright, ed. The World’s Congress of Representative Women. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally, 1894, pp. 857-858.  See my article, “Global Feminism and Inclusion in Anna Howard Shaw’s 1893 Sermon,” in Postscripts, vol 5, no 2 (2009). http://www.equinoxpub.com/index.php/POST/article/view/10245

[iii]See A Museum of Faiths, Histories and Legacies of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, Eric J. Ziolkowski, ed.  Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1993, pp. 325-343.

[iv] The World’s Parliament of Religions, Volumes I and II.  Chicago: The Parliament Publishing Company, 1893.

[v] Barrows, vol. II, pp. 1569-1570.

October 11th, 2013 at 2:25 pm

EVENT: Lighting 150 Lamps for Vivekananda in Chicago

As the Parliament prepares to salute Swami Vivekananda anniversary celebrations upcoming across Chicago, festivities planned Sunday, October 6 present a veritable cultural homage to his legacy.
The Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago hosted with University of Chicago’s Rockafeller Chapel Office of Spiritual life and Committee of South Asian Studies welcome all to The Legacy of Swami Vivekananda: To Live for Others.
From the hosts:
Swami Vivekananda’s presence at the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago was revelatory for the Western World. Speaking in Cobb Hall (on Modern Schools of Hinduism) in the very earliest days of the University of Chicago’s existence, he shaped a generation’s understanding of the religions of the East.
The Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, with the Spiritual Life Office and the Committee on South Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, invite you to this celebration of the Vivekananda’s birth, with the lighting of one hundred and fifty lamps and Indian song and chant.
Featuring address by Swami Varadananda (Chicago), Swami Shantarupananda (Portland, Oregon), Professor Gary Tubb (professor and chair, South Asian Languages and Civilizations), and Swami Ishatmananda (Chicago), and Eastern/Western fusion music by Sur Musafir. Free (registration encouraged at chicagovedanta.org). A reception follows.”

Vivekananda’s Speech to 1893 Parliament

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA’s opening address to the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, USA, 11 September, 1893

Sisters and Brothers of America, i
t fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects. My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration.

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation.

I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings:

As the different streams having there sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to thee.

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world, of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita:

Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.

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.

Parliament Celebrating Anniversaries At ‘Living Out The Vision’

Dear Friends,

120 years ago leaders from religions east and west came together at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions with a vision for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. And the Interfaith Movement was birthed.

It took another 100 years to hold the second Parliament; that event broke down barriers, included groups formerly left out, and attendees committed to work towards a world without wars, hate, and discrimination by signing a pioneering Global Ethic.

CPWR is celebrating the 120th and 20th Anniversary of this vision on November 16th in Chicago, and framing the future towards the vision, with a benefit program & dinner to ensure the ongoing work of the Parliament. Please lend your support with your donation of spirit and resources. We hope you can share with us on November 16 as we celebrate:

Living Out the Vision

4:00 p.m. Renewing the Vision:  Reflections on the 1893 Parliament and the 1993 Global Ethic
Featured panelists including the esteemed:

  • Dr. Martin Marty
  • Dr. Allison Stokes
  • and the first Executive Director of CPWR, Dr. Daniel Gomez-Ibáñez

6:00 p.m. Benefit Dinner  
Recognizing Our Leaders, Celebrating The Future

Chicago Sinai Congregation
15 West Delaware Place
Chicago, IL
60610

To Purchase Individual $150 Tickets Please Visit The Parliament of the World’s Religions Anniversary Benefit or send your check to CPWR Attn: Stephen Avino, 70 E. Lake Street Suite 205, Chicago, IL 60601.

What a promising time to move into a shared dynamic future with your support. We look forward to sharing with you this November 16. To learn more about purchasing a table, becoming a sponsor, and/or becoming a benefactor of CPWR, Living Out The Vision, please contact Brian Savage. Development Associate at Brian@parliamentofreligions.org or 312-629-2990.
  • Benefactor: $5000
  • Sponsor: $1000
  • Table Sponsorship (10 tickets): $1200
Desire to share in the spirit of this momentous anniversary? Please consider giving in support of CPWR carrying on the work towards that vision, convening major interfaith events, connecting people through newsletters and social media, developing model programs like Sharing Sacred Space and training groups through Ambassadors and Faiths Against Hate.Warm Regards,


Dr. Mary Nelson
Executive Director

Save the Date for Parliament of the World’s Religions Anniversary Benefit


Come celebrate with the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions!

We are gathering to commemorate the birth of Interfaith in Chicago, the 1893 and 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, and to honor the passion and work of new interfaith leaders today. Join us as we honor old friendships and build new ones for a bright and peaceful future!

Questions? Please contact Molly Horan, molly@parliamentofreligions.org

The Legacy of the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions

By Marcus Braybrooke for The Interfaith Observer

The Early Years of the Interfaith Movement

The legacy of the 1893 World Parliament of Religions did not live up to the high hopes of its organizers. The dream of a new era of universal peace too soon became the bloody nightmare of twentieth century battlefields and genocide.

Pope Leo XIII officially censured the Roman Catholic speakers at the Parliament and forbade participation in “future promiscuous conventions.” The openness to other faiths shown by many Christians at the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh was soon obscured by Karl Barth and Hendrik Kraemer, who stressed the distinctiveness of the Gospel over against religions, which, they proposed, were a futile human effort to reach God.

Yet there was a legacy. The Parliament created awareness among some that there are “wells of truth outside Christianity.” Historian Sidney Ahlstrom said it began the slow change by which Protestant America was to become a multi-racial society. Swami Vivekananda and Dharmapala established continuing Vedanta and Buddhist groups in the United States.

The Parliament also stimulated the academic study of religions. The Haskell lectureship endowment at the University of Chicago brought distinguished scholars of “comparative religion” to the school and enabled Henry Barrows, secretary of the Parliament, to lecture in Asia.

In 1901 the first meeting of the International Congress for the History of Religions (IAHR) was held as part of the Paris Universal Exposition, though this was for the scientific study of religions and not for interfaith dialogue. The distinguished scholar Joseph Kitagawa wrote, “it becomes clear that what the Parliament contributed to Eastern religions was not comparative religion as such. Rather Barrows and his colleagues should receive credit for initiating what we call today the ‘dialogue among various religions,’ in which each religious claim for ultimacy is acknowledged.”

Initial Institutional Developments

IARF activities continue today around the world. This recent gathering was in Andhra Pradesh in India. Photo: iarf.netPlans for another Parliament in 1901, possibly in India, came to nothing – although small scale parliaments were held in Japan and elsewhere. The obvious ‘child’ of the Parliament was the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), as it is now known, which held its first meeting in 1900. The prime mover was Charles William Wendte, born in Boston in 1844, had helped plan the 1893 Parliament. His parents had come to the United States on their honeymoon and stayed on. Wendte’s father became a Unitarian after being astonished to hear “something sensible from a preacher!” To his delight, his son became a Unitarian minister.

Besides his congregational responsibilities, Charles Wendte built up close relations with the German Free Protestant Union. With the American Unitarians, they were the main supporters of IARF, though among the 2,000 participants at the 1907 Boston Congress were some members of the Brahmo Samaj and a handful of liberal Jews, Muslims, and Catholics. (A longer profile of the IARF will be published here later this year.)

The World Congress of Faith can claim a more distant relationship. Its links with the 1893 Parliament came through the “Second Parliament of Religions,” held in Chicago in 1933, in conscious imitation of the earlier event. The 1933 Parliament, a largely forgotten event, was initiated by Charles Weller and Mr. Das Gupta. Weller, a social worker, started the League of Neighbours in 1918 to help integrate African Americans and foreign-born citizens into American life.

Das Gupta had come in 1908 from India to England. To help remedy British ignorance of India, he organized the Union of East and West. Then in 1920 he accompanied Rabindranath Tagore to the United States. Das Gupta stayed on and restarted his Union of East and West in America. Early in the 1920s he met Weller. Together they merged the League of Neighbours and the Union of East and West to create the Fellowship of Faiths. The Fellowship arranged in several cities meetings at which a member of one faith paid tribute to another faith. It also published a journal called Appreciation.

In May 1929, the World Fellowship of Faiths met in Chicago. This revived memories of the city’s 1893 Parliament and led to a similar event being held to coincide with the Second World Fair in 1933. Twenty-seven gatherings were held in Chicago, with a total attendance of 44,000 people. Preliminary meetings were also held in New York. Bishop McConnell claimed, perhaps unfairly, that the 1933 gathering was an advance on the 1893 event. “The first difference,” he said, “is that instead of a comparative parade of rival religions, all faiths were challenged to apply their religion to help solve the urgent problems which impede man’s progress. The second difference is that the word ‘faiths’ is understood to include, not only all religions, but all types of spiritual consciousness.”

One of those who attended the 1933 Parliament was Sir Francis Younghusband, who three years later arranged the first World Congress of Faiths in London. The minutes of the first planning meeting make clear the link with the World Fellowship of Faiths, which had arranged the Second World Parliament of Religions in 1933. Younghusband soon made clear to Das Gupta that, although grateful to him and the World Fellowship of Faiths, that he – Younghusband – was in charge of the Congress.

The World Fellowship of Faiths described itself as “a movement not a machine; a sense of expanding activities, rather than an established institution, an inspiration more than an achievement. It has never sought to develop a new religion or unite divergent faiths on the basis of a least common denominator of their convictions. Instead, it held that the desired and necessary human realization of the all-embracing spiritual Oneness of the Good Life Universal must be accompanied by the appreciation (brotherly love) for all the individualities, all the differentiations of function, by which true unity is enriched.” This is still a fair description of the interfaith movement.

Looking Back to Move Forward in 2013: Reconnect with us!

In 1993, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions staged the first and biggest inter-religious gathering in 100 years. Commemorating this landmark anniversary year of 2013 we are:

LOOKING BACK…

120 Years Ago - The World’s Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair, hailing representatives of faith groups never previous known to the western world and giving world-wide recognition to the peace and harmony cultivated by inter-religious fellowship and cooperation. It is the site where Swami Vivekananda changed the world of religious thought with his now famous speech.

25 Years Ago - The planning for 1993 began in the basement of a Hyde Park Chicago church where religious leaders recognized the opportunity to again invest the world in interfaith dialogue.

20 Years Ago - The Parliament of World Religions in the Palmer House Hotel of Chicago convened more than 8000 people joining together for the first and largest global interfaith gathering in a century. There a breakthrough document, Towards A Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration drafted by Hans Kuns was signed by numerous faith leaders, officially establishing the ongoing work of the CPWR.

…TO MOVE FORWARD

…by canvassing scrapbooks, white papers, phone lists, and the Parliament’s internet community comprising the last two and a half decades.

We invite the attendees, organizers, and friends of the 1993 Chicago, 1999 Capetown, 2004 Barcelona, and 2009 Melbourne Parliaments of the World’s Religions to reunite with us through our “Looking Back to Move Forward” series of 2013 programs.

Here’s what we’ll be doing: 

Highlighting the stories of the Council’s friends, many who planned 1993 and continued to serve the organization by joining the board, volunteering, and attending subsequent Parliaments.

Featuring you! Did you attend 1993 in Chicago?  What about 1999 in Capetown, or Barcelona in 2004? Did you feel connected to a movement because of those experiences? Please share these memories with us. Maybe you’ve been to all of the Parliaments, and your time in one of them inspired the life you’ve been living differently the past few years. How were you changed?

Exploring how “interfaith” has evolved over the last twenty years through Parliament events. It is time to mark  20 years of the Parliament movement by documenting surprise lessons, unexpected answers, and new questions to pursue.

Updating our community on the changing face of this movement and staying current. Momentum in interfaith today has sprouted major growth in youth inter-religious organizing, initiated history-making interfaith discussions, connected groups across polar spiritual, geographic, and digital lines, and defined new relationships between the religious and secular communities.  Guiding institutions and and faith-based organizations are constantly discovering new pathways to becoming cooperative entities.  The study of religions now considers the cooperative nature of diverse faith groups, going beyond the traditional comparative religions study. We will be present in these conversations as we plan our next steps, and share our findings through our Global Listening Campaign, Faiths Against Hate Campaign, and Parliament newsletters.

Celebrating our successes. Chicago is still the Council’s base, and as we look back on all the connections we’ve made all across the globe from our offices here, we want to reconnect. Later this year we will be announcing exciting plans to invite our Parliaments friends to a can’t-miss anniversary event here in Chicago.

Please connect with us at stories@parliamentofreligions.org and share your best memories, experiences, and lessons learned from the relationship you’ve built with the Parliament.  Kindly include your name, location, Parliament(s) attended and years, as well as any contact information you are comfortable sharing.   If you have recommendations or wishes for future Parliaments, we would be delighted to read about this, too.