Archive for the ‘Previous Parliaments’ Category
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
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.
Honoring Our Jain Delegate from India at 1893 Parliament: Lawyer Virchand Raghavji Gandhi (1864-1901)
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:
- Welcome speech on Opening Day in afternoon session (September 11, 1893)
- Speech on the philosophy and ethics of the Jains
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 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
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.
[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.
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SWAMI VIVEKANANDA’s opening address to the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, USA, 11 September, 1893
Sisters and Brothers of America, it 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.
With sadness the Parliament of the World’s Religions shares a heartfelt reflection on the sudden July 4 passing of South Africa’s Father John Oliver, who founded the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative in South Africa. The organization built out of the 1999 Parliament remains the heart of interfaith in the city so many cherish for its legacy of interfaith triumph.
Chair Gordon Oliver says the loss of the city’s “interfaith guru” leaves a gaping hole in the entire community. Remembered for a smile CPWR Chair Emeritus Jim Kenney will never forget, Father John Oliver’s relationship to the Parliament inspired a complete trust so persuasive, it would be his influence in securing District Six the site of a Parliament staged to celebrate Interfaith’s greatest success at the turn of a millennium.
Kenney, “Fr. John was one of my closest colleagues and very best friends during the three years that my wife, Cetta, and I spent in Cape Town, Jo-burg, and Durban, planning the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions. John was an “early adopter” of the philosophy/theology of pluralism. He was brilliant, compassionate, and so very well versed in the religions of the world, and the religions of southern Africa. He was a passionate advocate, often against the will of his own Archdiocese, of African Traditional Religion.”
This marriage to the Parliament thrived over a decade and a half. Only weeks before his passing, Father Oliver delighted CPWR’s Ambassador Advisory Committee through an applying to become an Ambassador of the Parliament, renewing a long-term commitment to keep CPWR alive in South Africa.
Under a year ago, the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative hosted CPWR Trustee Emeritus Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian. Her words describe a man whose name will become synonymous with Interfaith in the movement.
Fr. John Oliver was a passionate man—on fire for truth, justice and real peace. He dedicated his life to those efforts as an Anglican priest and tireless supporter of interreligious harmony. Last fall, as a representative of CPWR, I visited the offices of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative and had the privilege of spending time with him, his colleagues in interfaith work, and his beloved family. I came away transformed by his presence. He was tireless in his work for peace and relentless in his deep soul-search for truth, which included the willingness to explore beyond the boundaries of his own tradition. He was profoundly interested in the inter-spiritual dimension of interfaith work. He yearned to go beyond interfaith dialog to discover an even deeper place to connect to others. He loved South Africa and the community he served at St. Mark’s in District Six. When I asked him if he would come to the US, he replied, “Why would I do that?” The heart and soul of South Africa spoke deeply to him. His life and legacy speaks deeply to us about many important things, not the least of which is what becomes possible when a person catches an interfaith vision for peace and has the courage to pursue it.
Further accomplishments of the recently retired champion include his work as the primary organizer to bring Cape Town into the worldwide network of Compassionate Cities through the Charter for Compassion.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions shares our love and support to the city of Cape Town and the wider Western Cape, the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, with prayers for the countless friends mourning Father Oliver. Official memorial action in honor of his achievements and gifts to the Parliament will be undertaken by our full board and emeriti in the coming months.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Parliament History Revived At Retirement Prayer Service For Board Trustee Emeritus Sister Joan McGuire
The Parliament of the World’s Religions faced difficulty in the early nineties pumping up the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago to participate in plans for the centennial Parliament of 1993. Then came Sister Joan McGuire, whose will to advance ecumenics changed it all. At a June 14 prayer service honoring her retirement, leaders of CPWR past and present, including Chair Mujahid and Executive Director Nelson, gathered to celebrate a trailblazing career in ecumenical, interfaith accomplishment. Board Trustee Emeritus of CPWR and current Ecumenical leader of the Archdiocese Thomas Baina led the service as celebrant, citing a dissertation in the ceremony which detailed McGuire’s service leading up to her joining the Parliament Board of Trustees. In his remarks,
And, history has already recorded her place in the founding of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Those of you who know this story know that I was against the idea from the start. I thought it was a pretentious name and an unworkable idea. I advised her to keep her distance. Well, fortunately for history, Sister Joan ignored my advice. Listen to what Dr. Carlos Parra, in his recent dissertation on the Parliament says:
. . . Sister Joan McGuire, a member of the Dominican Order with a doctorate in sacred theology and the Director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Archdiocese of Chicago was a committed observer throughout this process. Her ecumenical presence, leadership as a Catholic religious woman, and ecclesiastical savvy and tactfulness were like a gentle wind that swept over the waters of these early converging currents. As Cardinal Bernardin’s official representative . . . Sister McGuire was instrumental in getting for the centennial project not only the support of the Archdiocese but of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago . . . which brought together not only Catholics and the various Protestant denominations but also the Jewish community . . .
In Dr. Parra’s study he argues that Sister Joan’s prudent judgment, patience in building relationships and the trust she has with the religious leaders of Chicago were all instrumental in their receiving her recommendations to support the Parliament. I would add that he correctly describes all her dealings with our partners in dialogue. And, of course, she won me over to the parliament.
Sister Joan was called back to her Order in 1992 to assume a position on the Council. She served there until 1996 when, in December, she returned to again assume the position of Director. Only a few months later, in May, she would introduce herself to the new Archbishop, Francis George, who when she said she ran the ecumenical office, replied, “Good, I’m interested in that.”
That simple remark could not capture the degree of personal engagement and support which EIA received from the new archbishop. Within the first year, she was able to schedule the Cardinal for the first visit of an Archbishop of Chicago to a mosque. Cardinal George’s experience with the Evangelical/Roman Catholic dialogue brought another new dimension to EIA work, as did his focus on Faith and Culture. Sister Joan was also able to help plan and execute the “Dialogue of Love: A Pilgrimage to Constantinople and Rome” with the Greek Metropolis of Chicago.
With utmost gratitude, the Parliament salutes Sister Joan McGuire wish best wishes for a peaceful and exuberant retirement. Her work facilitating relationships between Catholics and Muslim, Jewish, and other faiths made her a perfect match for the Parliament.