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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

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

Praying for Justice at Parliament’s Interfaith Anniversary Kickoff

Associate Pastor of Congressional Life Joyce Shin of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church delivers a prayer at the 20th Anniversary Celebration Kickoff of CPWR, May 11, 2013 at the Sikh Religious Society of Chicago

Taking time to mark twenty years of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, on May 11, the Sikh Religious Society of Chicago opened doors to the interfaith community of Chicagoland to kickoff the anniversary year’s celebrations. Speaking from a Christian community, Joyce Shin of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church offered reverence to a God whose world is failing to live up to his image, asking for strength to be stronger and to cultivate peace. Praying for justice, Shin’s words mirror the mission the Parliament follows moving forward in Presbyterian-religious terms.

Great is your Word, O God, and great are your works.  Each day we breathe in what you breathed out.

We take in the goodness and beauty of your creation, the love you have for it, and your command to care for it.

With heads bowed down and hearts broken, we confess to you, O God, the sorrow we feel for the great mistakes your world has made.

Together we bear the consequences of a creation marred by sin.  Your truth has been twisted and your providence perverted.

Anger has been sown and violence spread.  And when violence is committed in your name, we shudder with shame.

For the way things are, we are sorry, for we know your world has fallen short of your creation.  We see the scars on both friend and stranger.

We have condoned ignorance and allowed injustice, and we have made others to suffer for our mistakes.

We do not take lightly, great God, the damage done, the lives lost, and the grief immeasurable.

When we fear that the world is beyond repair, remind us that you have created us to be in your image.  We are not sure what that means.

 Compared to you we are fallen, frail in strength, and fickle in conviction.

At most, God, we hope that, if we imitate you all the days of our lives, we will come to embody what you have in mind for us:

that our bodies will bear the grooves of daily service and that our faces will reveal lines of compassion;

that our souls will be strengthened to speak out for those whose voices are ignored and to stand up against forces that keep people down.

Then when you look upon us and the world you have created, most merciful God, we pray that you will see some semblance of your image:

a world in which just priorities are pursued; the young are educated; the elderly cared for; the vulnerable protected; the hungry filled; the homeless safe.

Do not let the needs of your creation overwhelm us, Lord.  Though the world’s needs are great, your power is greater.  Amen.

 

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

Cost: None!

RSVP: ashley@parliamentofreligions.org

Marching with MLK and Mahalia Jackson: Our CEO Remembers

“We’ve gotta tear down those walls. We’ve gotta TEAR DOWN those walls. WE’VE GOTTA TEAR DOWN THOSE WALLS!”

Depicting a 196o’s summer rally, Dr. Mary Nelson, CPWR’s Interim CEO, relives a historical moment. For her, this is a personal story of joining her neighbors to protest housing discrimination against people of color. Committing to march for the civil rights cause, Mary worked passionately for this open, “beloved” community.

Leading the civil rights movement to the North, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had journeyed to Chicago to launch what would become a summer-long effort. His Saturday marches concentrated on those neighborhoods that were the most bitterly opposed to integration.

Nelson says, “King preached the night before [the first march] that we had to tear down the walls of racism, of economic injustice, and the way to tear down those walls was to peacefully just make a witness and be strong. We had to have some training in non-violence and how to do that.”

It isn’t a pretty piece of history, and Nelson doesn’t gloss over the raw and gritty reality of what it was. But it was also an exciting time to change the system. Rabbis and Christian clergy together answered King’s ecumenical call. Black Muslims who were beginning to add their voice to the movement often took jobs as King’s bodyguards.

Dr. Nelson had joined an interfaith force for change, and was ready to take to the streets.

Trekking together down Cicero Avenue, pastors marched in front linking arm-in-arm to King. Singing “We Shall Overcome” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” their chorus wouldn’t be thrown, even as bystanders littered the march trying to impale everything about it.

Lining their path, the sidewalks were overcrowded by epithet-screaming opponents. Nelson says in that time, “if you were to label them, they’d be rednecks.”

Par for the course, they prepared to encounter danger and would enact a non-violent response. Through the sounds of firecrackers that burst frighteningly like gunshots, Nelson was walking behind Mahalia Jackson, the gospel singer who’d sing at King’s rallies.

Jackson had brought the marchers to their feet the night before singing, “Joshua fit The Battle of Jericho and those walls a’come tumblin’ down…,”

Nelson was stumped in her tracks with everyone else as a disturbing scene unfolded. “One man with just hate filling his face, a fantastic visual of hate, did a big glob of spit onto Mahalia’s cheek,” Nelson cringes to recall.

Planted in place, Mahalia turned and stared her bully straight in the eyes, peering into him. All watched Ms. Jackson as she wiped away the man’s spit and offered him the words, “God Bless You My Child.”

“The power of nonviolence had made this big, bully man and all his hate just shrivel up, like Judas, and he understood that his power was nothing compared to the power of being able to bless him in the midst of that,” Nelson says.

It was the first time Nelson says she viscerally experienced the power of non-violence. From that point, she would march each Saturday that summer while King took residence in an impoverished West-side Chicago neighborhood.

Preaching to break down barriers and make room for everyone in a beloved community, King dispatched his wider vision for equality that would change Chicago and the nation. These shared convictions would also guide Nelson through decades of leadership in community organizing. Now at the helm of our global interfaith council, Nelson tirelessly dedicates each day to justice, and happily shares stories that drop the jaws of those around her.

Like the story of marching with MLK, which Nelson more aptly calls, “My Mahalia Jackson story.”

And really…, it is.

Bearing The Light: Honoring our Spiritual Foremothers

An image of the Rockefeller Carillon, to be played at the Bearing the Light concert at University of Chicago, an event put on by the Women’s Task Force of the CPWR. Photo from University of Chicago website.

On November 3rd at 7:30pm, the University of Chicago’s majestic Rockefeller Chapel will be filled with the dynamic sounds of West African drumming and the ethereal 12th century chant of Hildegard of Bingen. As the combined chants of many different traditions reach a crescendo, the chapel will be bathed in light and the ringing of the Rockefeller Carillon, the second-largest musical instrument in the world.

An hour of music and readings honoring women across time and traditions, “Bearing the Light: Honoring Our Spiritual Foremothers” will feature the all-women’s percussion ensemble Diamana Diya, directed by Helen Bond and Amy Lusk, and acclaimed sopranos Laura Lynch, Jillian Krickl, and Alessandra Visconti, as well as classical Indian dance and the soulful sounds of chant from Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, and other spiritual traditions.

“Bearing the Light: Honoring Our Spiritual Foremothers” marks the inauguration of the Women’s Task Force at the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion. The Women’s Task Force seeks to assure that women’s voices are heard at the vital nexus of women’s issues, religion, and spiritual leadership. “This is a night to celebrate the courage and wisdom and love of the women who have gone before us, and to inspire one another to speak from the deepest truths of our lives today,” explained the Rev. Dr. Anne Benevenuti, co-chair of the Women’s Task Force.

This event is free and open to the public, and takes place at Rockefeller Chapel, at 5850 South Woodlawn Avenue on the campus of the University of Chicago. A dessert reception follows with spirited conversations.

Come join us for an uplifting evening of world music and interfaith spirituality in Chicago, marking inauguration of the Women’s Task Force at the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion!  RSVP at www.facebook.com/events/116084761877554/

The Sharing Sacred Spaces Project

 

Chicago has served as the site of a nine-month pilot program designed to foster interreligious dialogue and understanding, using a resource most religious and spiritual communities already have at their fingertips—spaces to gather.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions’ (CPWR) “Sharing Sacred Spaces” project conisted of “open house” type events at eight spaces of local religious and spiritual communities, with the intention to “deepen appreciation for the diverse religious and spiritual traditions by focusing on the spaces that are sacred to these communities.”

A final, culminating event, “Sacred Solidarity,” took place in downtown Chicago, at which representatives from the eight participating communities gathered to sign a pledge committing to work to maintain the ties of trust and friendship built during the last eight months.

“At a time when hatred and violence erupts over religious differences internationally, [this] quiet collaborative effort in Chicago has forged alliances and fostered new friendships across religious lines”, said Rev. Dirk Ficca, executive director of the CPWR.

View photos and learn more about Sharing Sacred Spaces

Sharing Sacred Spaces Creates Interreligious Solidarity

Eight communities in Chicago sign solidarity pledge after visiting each other’s sacred spaces.

by Sarah Fentem

To Suzanne Morgan, the scene Sunday afternoon in Federal Plaza—a bright, white tent, a podium and lectern placed in front of folding chairs, the blindingly bright springtime sun—had the feeling of a graduation.

And for good reason. The stage was set to celebrate the completion of the eight-month Chicago “Sharing Sacred Spaces” program, a series of interfaith events during which eight participating Chicago communities of faith and practice invited others into their sacred space, engaged the visitors around matters of their faith, and provided hospitality and conversation. Morgan, a retired architect, designed the program, which was sponsored by the Council for the Parliament of World’s Religions(CPWR).

Participating communities included a Buddhist Temple, a Jewish Reform Congregation, the Downtown Islamic Center, an Episcopal Cathedral, and United Methodist, Christian Science, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches.


photos by John White

By Sunday, all the communities had shared their sacred space with one another, and were gathered together for the first time not to focus on an individual space or religion, but to celebrate the harmony and diversity of the group as a whole.

“It really solidifies what we’ve done,” Morgan said of the event.

“This is the beginning of the journey, not the end,” said Dirk Ficca, the Executive Director of the CPWR. Ficca announced the success of the program “exceeded expectations” and the Chicago pilot program will be used as a model for 80 partner cities around the world.

Of the program, Morgan said herself she had “No clue how it would turn out,” explaining the success of the “Sharing Sacred Spaces” depended on the public’s involvement.

“We were amazed at how people took this up,” she said. “They wanted to connect, to share something.”

The diversity and harmony among the participating communities was underscored by the signing of the “Sacred Spaces” Solidarity Pledge, the focal point of the event.

The Solidarity Pledge speaks of the bonds of mutual respect and trust forged among the eight participating faith communities during the last eight months. By signing the pledge, they promise to support and respect each other, stand together against public disrespect or harm of any faith community, and to celebrate “shared values of justice, peacemaking, and harmony in diversity.”

As a representative from each location took the stage to sign the pledge, they also read a personal statement explaining what the pledge meant to their community. The statements were as diverse as the communities from which they came.

“We commit to this pledge because as Jews we know the history of bigotry and intolerance,” said Rabbi David Levsinky from the Chicago Sinai Congregation. Syed Khan, from the Downtown Islamic Center, referenced the “pledge of mutual support and defense” the Prophet Muhammed made with the citizens of Medina before he signed the pledge. And Kwang Oh, the representative from the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, said “We as United Methodists believe there is a God who loves us and calls for us to love one another, who insists we work with all people.”

The communities’ declarations showcased the philosophy at the heart of “Sharing Sacred Spaces”—that what makes us different ultimately can be what brings us together.

 

Learn more about Sharing Sacred Spaces

 

A Better Way to Talk About Faith

Students at an Interfaith Youth Core event in Washington, DC in 2011. Photo from NYTimes

by David Bornstein
from the New York Times

Is there a way to overcome religious intolerance?

Given global demographic changes, it’s a vital question. “The most certain prediction that we can make about almost any modern society is that it will be more diverse a generation from now than it is today,” the political scientist Robert D. Putnam has written. “This is true from Sweden to the United States and from New Zealand to Ireland.”

In the United States, the question holds special significance for the simple reason that American society is highly religious and highly diverse and — on matters concerning faith — considerably more politically polarized than a quarter-century ago.

The United States prides itself on welcoming people of different faiths. The Bill of Rights begins with a guarantee of freedom of worship. In 1790, George Washington sent a letter to a Jewish congregation in which he expressed his wish that they “continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants,” and declared that the government “gives to bigotry no sanction.” In 2010, Mayor Bloomberg’s impassioned and courageous defense of the Cordoba House — the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” — became an important addition to a long and noble tradition of inclusion. (It’s a speech worth reading.)

But while there have been widespread efforts over the past generation to promote and celebrate ethnic and racial diversity — everything from “Sesame Street” to multicultural studies to work force sensitivity training — the one topic that has often been kept off the table is faith. Americans have grown more comfortable talking about race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, but not faith. It’s too personal, too divisive, too explosive. How do you conduct a productive conversation among people whose cherished beliefs — exclusive God-given truths — cannot be reconciled?

That’s a process that a Chicago-based organization called the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) has refined into something between an art and a science, demonstrating how to bring college students together across faith and belief lines so that they develop greater respect, comfort and appreciation for one another and their traditions.

Click here to read the full article

Sacred Space: Balwant S. Hansra on Sikhism and the Gurdwara (Video)

Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra discusses Sikhism, the Gurus, the gurdwara, langar, and the practice of his religious tradition.