Archive for the ‘1993 Parliament – Chicago’ Category
Welcoming All To 20th Anniversary Interfaith Kickoff | Chicago May 11 | Looking Back to Move Forward
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is pleased to welcome all to a kickoff Interfaith celebration of our 20th anniversary! Partake in spiritual music, prayer, and conversation to look back on the 1993 Parliament of World Religions and move forward to a harmonious interfaith future! Attendees are welcomed to share in Langar (a meal) directly following the celebration.
When: Saturday, May 11 | 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. (Meal to follow)
Where: Sikh Religious Society | Palatine Gurdwara Sahib | 1280 Winnetka Street | Palatine, IL 60067
Hosted by: CPWR & The Sikh Religious Society
The modern Parliament of the World’s Religions began twenty years ago in Chicago. A 100-year celebration of the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 became a revival for global interfaith. There and then, we declared the mission we continue today; convening global citizens of spirit and faith, connecting a network of worldwide communities, and enabling the dialogue among us to transform into action. The collective goal over these years?
A just, peaceful, and sustainable world.
Looking back to move forward this year makes now the time to revisit our roots, learn from our history, and step into our future wired for progress.
Sri Chinmoy was officially invited to hold the opening meditation at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago on August 28, 1993.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, a former Brooklyn Jewish housewife turned Guru, lost her battle with pancreatic cancer last week at her home, Kashi Ashram, an interfaith spiritual community, which she founded 35 years ago in the central Florida town of Sebastian. A memorial service will be held at Kashi Ashram on Ma’s birthday, May 26, and will be open to the public.
Thousands followed Ma’s teachings and way of life through a network of affiliated communities and charities throughout the globe. As actress Julia Roberts said, “There are a few people in one’s life that create only the warmest and most powerfully positive impact imaginable. Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati was one of those people to me and my family. She was a beautiful person who shined with love and understanding in all ways. Kashi Ashram was created out of her devotion to all who sought her wisdom and ideas. Her transition was deeply sad news and yet, as with all she did, it has brought me even closer to her words and her teachings. May we all look upon one another with loving kindness in her name and in the memory of all Mothers who love and teach us all.”
Founded by Ma in 1976, Kashi Ashram blends Eastern and Western philosophies. The Ashram sits on 80 acres at the banks of the St. Sebastian River and has dozens of temples and shrines to many diverse religions and spiritual paths. People from all walks of life are welcome and embraced at Kashi and encouraged to worship and coexist in harmony. Kashi Ashram affiliates have been opened in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, and Santa Fe.
Ma was the founder of Kashi Church Foundation, The River School, The River Fund, Kashi School of Yoga, the Village of Kashi, and By the River affordable senior housing. Her present and past affiliations include Trustee Emeritus of the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Advisory Board Member of Equal Partners in Faith, Advisory Board Member of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, Advisory Board Member of the Gardner’s Syndrome Association, Delegate to the United Religions Initiative, Member of the Board of Directors of the AIDS care organization Project Response, and member of the Parliament’s General Assembly. Ma also founded orphan centers in Uganda and India.
by Leo D. Lefebure
When I was a graduate student at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago in the 1980s, there were intense discussions of religious pluralism and theological understandings of religious diversity. My doctoral dissertation focused on the importance of the biblical wisdom tradition for contemporary Christian theology, concluding with suggestions that this trajectory could be a fruitful starting point for inter-religious reflection.
During this period, a couple that I knew moved from Casper, Wyoming, to Bangkok and invited me to visit them. This led to my first trip to East and Southeast Asia. I visited Kyoto, Bangkok, Myanmar/Burma, and Bali, and was deeply moved by the beauty of the Buddhist and Hindu art in these sites. I also stayed in the Buddhist monastery of Wat Rempoeng near Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I was introduced to the practice of Theravada Buddhist meditation.
Shortly thereafter, I came to know the noted Japanese Zen Buddhist philosopher, Masao Abe, who was then a visiting professor at the University of Chicago. He agreed to be the mentor to me for a post-doctoral research project funded by the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada, which allowed me to go to Kyoto, where Abe introduced me to a circle of Japanese scholars, both Buddhist and Christian. These encounters led to my book, The Buddha and the Christ (Orbis Books 1993). My most recent book, The Path of Wisdom: A Christian Commentary on the Dhammapada (Peeters and Eerdmans 2011), continues this trajectory of reflection, responding to the wisdom sayings of Shakyamuni Buddha in light of both biblical and later Christian wisdom traditions. I continue to appreciate the deep wisdom of the Buddhist tradition and find it enriching on many levels.
In 1987, as I was beginning to teach at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary near Chicago, I was invited to participate in a retreat of Catholic priests and rabbis at the University’s Center for Development in Ministry, where we not only talked to one another but also prayed together. This began my decades-long engagement in Jewish-Christian dialogue, which continues today. In the spring of 2009, I participated in a very moving Jewish-Christian study trip to Poland, co-sponsored by Georgetown University and the Polish Foreign Ministry, exploring various aspects of Jewish-Polish relations past and present.
In the 1990s, I was invited to join the Midwest Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims, where I contributed to the drafting of a booklet on Revelation in Catholic and Muslim Perspectives. I was teaching at Fordham University in New York City on September 11, 2001. Afterward, I was involved in discussions of religion and violence at a number of venues, including Siena College near Albany, NY, the Islamic Center of Passaic County, New Jersey and in the Mid-Atlantic Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims in Queens.
I became involved with the work of CPWR when I went to a theology meeting at DePaul University and happened to come upon a group of colleagues who were on the CPWR research committee helping to plan the 1993 Parliament in Chicago. They invited me to attend their next meeting and join the research committee. I also covered the 1993 Parliament for The Christian Century. Later, when I was teaching at Fordham University, I participated in the Consultation on Interfaith Education’s planning for their symposium at the 2004 Parliament in Barcelona, where I offered reflections on the Dalai Lama’s contribution to interfaith education.
The most powerful defining moment of the interreligious movement for me was the 1996 Gethsemani Encounter at Gethsemani Abbey, Kentucky, which included the Dalai Lama, Maha Ghosananda (the Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism), and many other Buddhist and Catholic monastic leaders. The context of a Catholic Trappist monastery with its rhythms of silence, meditation, and prayer, provided a welcoming atmosphere for the week-long monastic inter-religious reflection. The spirit of Thomas Merton hovered around us as we continued his practice of inter-religious friendship. As an advisor to Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, I enjoyed many moving exchanges with Buddhist and Catholic monastics. Other powerful experiences have come on Buddhist-Christian retreats that draw upon the resources of both traditions.
Given the often problematic role of religion in the world’s conflicts past and present, I believe my involvement in inter-religious reflection is important in building bridges and shaping a healthy community of the world’s religions. I find much hope and encouragement in the wonderful women and men whom I have met in inter-religious encounters.
by Kay Lindahl, CLP
from the Interfaith Observer
The 1993 Parliament was a watershed event in interfaith history, following in the footsteps of the first Parliament in 1893. Both events forged new ground and introduced new interfaith possibilities. In addition to making history, the 1993 Parliament transformed my life.
My love affair with the Parliament began before I had even heard of it. In 1989 my husband and I moved to a community where almost everything was new – the oldest buildings had been around for less than 20 years. We became involved in the founding of a church, holding the first service in our living room. We soon found a space to meet in the community room of a local bank.
Within a few months our community became an incorporated city. During this time we met people from other new congregations, of many traditions. Together we lobbied the City Planning Department to include zoning for non-profits and houses of worship in the new city plan, which we accomplished.
We made some wonderful friends during that time, and when that project ended we continued to meet. I invited the group to a conversation asking, “What would it be like to have a strong spiritual base in our community?” By the end of that meeting, we had formed a local interfaith organization, the Alliance for Spiritual Community. Its main focus was interfaith dialogue and being present at community events.
It is with deep sadness that we note the passing of Yael R. Wurmfeld, longtime member of the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Yael served as Director of the international office (Office of Pioneering) of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States for over 20 years. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Council for Higher Education and of the North Shore Choral Society. She was a talented singer, and she was passionate, optimistic and deeply committed to the interreligious movement.
Yael was crucial to the hands on organizing efforts for the 1993 Parliament and served for many years on CPWR’s Board of Trustees.
“Yael was one of the inaugural members of the Council, going back nearly to 1988,” said Dirk Ficca, Excecutive Director of CPWR. “She was one of a few Trustees who literally became like staff members in the preparation for the 1993 Parliament in Chicago. For months on end she came down to the office to put in long hours on the program and do outreach to religious and spiritual communities internationally. Yael was a key voice in calling the Council to continue on past the 1993 centennial.”
“We will all miss Yael,” said Rev. William Lesher, Board Chair Emeritus. “She was truly a interreligious pioneer who embodied the kind of passion that gave the Parliament movement its rebirth in our time, and for that we are exceedingly grateful. May perpetual light shine upon her.”
by Helen Spector, CPWR Trustee
When Rev. Dr. David Ramage recruited me in 1990 to serve on the Board of Trustees leading up to the 1993 Parliament, I was not engaged in or much aware of the inter-religious movement.
My commitment to the Council’s work caught fire when I joined a group of Trustees to travel to Cape Town in 1998, to meet with our organizing counterparts and talk with leaders from all the faith communities who would support the Parliament in 1999 in Cape Town. From that visit and my work since, I have come to see clearly the power of the interfaith experience and the positive impact of Council’s community organizing approach.
During our visit, we each were asked to meet individually with leaders from different faith traditions. Although I am Jewish, I had done considerable consulting with the Episcopal Church in the United States, so I visited with the Dean of St. George’s Cathedral. He spoke with great energy about the glory days of interfaith in Cape Town during the struggle to overthrow apartheid, when every few weeks, leaders from all faith communities would meet to map the next steps in their powerful strategy of standing and marching forward together.
When he had finished his story, it seemed that a great sadness overwhelmed him, and he sat quietly for a few moments. I asked him what he hoped would come from organizing and holding the Cape Town Parliament, and he said in a very quiet voice, “Since our victory in overcoming apartheid, we have not met again. I hope that we will find a way to come together again as leaders of faith and share our hopes for rebuilding our country.”
In the years since that meeting, I have had the opportunity to witness the formation of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, which just observed its 10th anniversary on May 10, 2010. Gordon Oliver, CTII Chairman, credits the Parliament event as the organizing impetus for this vibrant and growing local inter-religious movement.
More recently, Dr. Gary Bouma, Chair of the Board of Management in Melbourne, has shared with us that “before PWR 2009, 3 or 4 cities in Melbourne (which is itself divided into over 20 separate cities with their own mayors, councils and local responsibilities) had interfaith councils; now all but one do. This is a HUGE result!”
While these stories show what tangible results look like when local communities get inspired and connected, I learned something else in Cape Town, something perhaps even more important about our work of interfaith.
In the lead up to the 1999 Parliament event, The Cape Times daily newspaper sponsored a 13-week special section—“One City, Many Faiths.” Monday through Friday, the paper carried four full pages of stories and information about five different faith traditions—Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and African Independent traditions—which have significant populations in the city. The publisher organized discussion groups, luncheon meetings of leaders, and interviews with people on the street to keep this initiative highly visible and energized.
After the Cape Town Parliament was over, I talked with the publisher, asking him what results he had seen from this massive initiative. “None,” he said. I was stunned. This was a huge investment of energy and resources! What did he mean he hadn’t seen any results?!
Then he told me the lesson that we all must remember: “We cannot tell you what the results are, because we have no way to count the number of hate crimes, attacks and killings that did not happen because someone walking on the street no longer saw a person who dresses differently or worships differently as someone to be feared.”
The world is full of stories like these that we will never hear. Yet we know that the inter-religious movement helps us to see each other as people with whom we share human experiences, even while we know we differ on how we worship and what we believe.
Mrs. Helen Spector joined the Board of CPWR in 1990 to help plan the 1993 Parliament Centenary Celebration. As a professional facilitator and Organizational Development consultant, Mrs. Spector has used her skills to further the values and goals of CPWR. She served as co—chair for the Site Selection task forces for the 2004, 2009 and 2014 Parliament events. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and continues as a Trustee of the Council.
From The Wild Hunt
The North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), one of North America’s oldest interfaith organizations, recently held their yearly gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the meeting, Covenant of the Goddess member Rachael Watcher, a longtime interfaith activist, was elected to the Executive Board of NAIN. Watcher is the second Pagan to serve on the Board, she will be joining Grove Harris, a member of Reclaiming, who has served with the Pluralism Project and the Council For A Parliament of the World’s Religions. COG’s National Public Information Officer released this statement on the election.
“Our CoG National Interfaith Representative – Rachael Watcher attended that meeting, and was elected to a four year term on the NAIN Board of Directors. This is important news for Wiccans and Pagans everywhere. Once again we are represented on the board of one of the oldest and most well respected interfaith organizations in North America. This election of Rachael demonstrates that CoG’s collective support for interfaith is reaping rewards of respect and inclusion for the entire Pagan community.”
This is yet another advance for Pagans within the interfaith movement. In addition to NAIN’s two Pagan board members, there are currently three Pagans, Andras Corban-Arthen, Phyllis Curott, and Angie Buchanan, serving on the Board of Trustees of the Council For A Parliament of the World’s Religions. Also, it should be noted that the United Religions Initiative has seen active Pagan participation for the entirety of its ten-year history.
These remarkable achievements, along with the “in the trenches” interfaith outreach and activism by individual modern Pagans, has ushered the modern Pagan movement to a place of global attention and influence that’s nearly unprecedented considering where we were a generation ago. A lot has happened since Paganism “came out” to the global interfaith community in 1993, and we’ve since built bridges and new understandings at a remarkable pace. Whatever our future, these achievements ensure that the voices of modern Pagans continue to be heard by the world’s religions. Congratulations to Rachael Watcher on her election!
From America Magazine
Marlborough, MA. I was invited to speak last evening at an appearance in one of the Boston suburbs of the famous modern Indian teacher, Mata Amritanandamayi (literally, “the mother,” “the one entirely composed of bliss in the imperishable”)— Amma, mother, who tours the world regularly, and has been widely honored for her charitable works for the poor in many places. She is also famous for embracing those who come to see her. For she is also “the hugging guru,” and is known to receive for hours at a time whoever comes to her, embracing them warmly and with a loving smile. She is also considered, by many of her disciples, simply a divine person come down to earth.
So I had the opportunity to speak a few words in introduction to her own lecture (in Malayalam, her native South Indian language, with a subsequent translation read by a discipline) and subsequent devotional hymns and a long evening of embraces. I was invited partly as a specialist in Hindu-Christian relations, and partly, I suspect, as a Harvard professor. But what to do, speaking a few word before nearly 1000 people (mostly Western, most “converted” to being her devotees) gathered to see this person they know to be divine? One might turn down such a request, of course, but if one does accept it, how to speak in a way that honors the occasion, respects her loving presence and good works, while yet also communicating something of Christian love too? It is quite a challenge to weave everything together in the right balance, definitely a Catholic and definitely standing before so large a group of very sincere devotee of Amma. So I pondered this for days, finally accepted the invitation, and eventually came up with the speech below; I showed up in my Roman collar, gave my talk, garlanded her, was embraced by her, spoke with her in Tamil for a brief moment, and enjoyed it all. But see what you think of my little speech. Did I say too much? too little? would you agree to speak on such an occasion?
Here it is (though also click here for the summary and video excerpt posted by Amma’s organization):
“Namaste, vanakkam, good evening. It is a grace to be here tonight with you. I know that we all travel by so many personal paths, yet by a singular invitation we are here together for a time, and that is good that it is so. I offer you this ancient Jewish blessing as we collect ourselves: “May the Lord bless us and keep us; / may the Lord make his face to shine upon us, / and be gracious to us; / may the Lord lift up his face upon us, / and give us peace. Amen.” (Numbers 6)
“We are here tonight, gathered together with Amritanandamayi Amma. When we speak this name — Amritananda-mayi, “perfect, complete in the bliss of the imperishable” — the Sanskrit scholars among us may think first on a philosophical level, perhaps turning to the Upanisads to probe the meaning of “bliss” and “the imperishable.” We may eventually think of the undying spark within all beings, and of a bliss grounded in the highest immortal Reality.
“But we also know that this name — Amritanandamayi — tells us something simpler and more immediate. We are invited to see how our guest — our host — is open to the undying Spirit that blows where it will — in, through, and around each of us. With her tonight, we learn again to stop covering our light with a bushel basket, and to share the bliss that is within us.”