The Parliament Blog

Archive for the ‘dialogue’ tag

Is Listening Becoming a Lost Art?

Kay Lindahl

Kay Lindahl

by David Whiting
from The Orange County Register

There’s something weird about communication. We emphasize only half the process – talking.

There are conventions, classes and clubs for yakking. But what about listening?

We take listening for granted. But many of us get accused of not listening – and we sometimes feel we’re not being listened to.

Kay Lindahl wants to change all that. But her method is different from most.

Instead of complaining or being silently frustrated, she’s spent the last 15 years dedicating her life to finding listening tools, to writing books on the subject, to talking – and listening – to groups.

She even founded the Listening Center.

Tip one: Listen to understand. You don’t have to agree. But try to be open.


Yes, Lindahl has a Listening Center that offers classes, workshops and retreats.

I also discovered there’s a Listening Awareness Month (March). And I learned there’s an International Listening Association, founded in 1979.

One of its tips? Avoid communicating that you’ve made up your mind by saying, “Yes, but…”

Because of her books, “The Sacred Art of Listening,” “Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening,” and “How Does God Listen?” Lindahl was made a certified listening professional.

And where there’s a movement there’s hope – even in an age in which half of us seem to be texting and reading e-mails in the middle of conversations.

A former nurse and with 10 grandchildren, Lindahl explains, “Listening is a creative force that transforms relationships.”

Click here to read the full article

December 6th, 2011 at 10:42 am

YouTube and the Language of Dialogue

by Stephen Pihlaja

If you’ve ever read comments that viewers post on YouTube videos, you know that the Internet can be a rough place for dialogue. Although online interaction between users of different backgrounds presents a unique opportunity for developing mutual understanding and empathy, it is unfortunately often marked by offence and misunderstanding. YouTube videos and comments in particular have a bad reputation for being incendiary and ugly, with users frequently forgetting that there is a face on the other side of the screen. Slurs and insults quickly consume the opportunity for dialogue, with little chance for mutual understanding.

To take an especially challenging example, in 2010, violent responses to and censorship of images of the prophet Muhammad in television and political cartoons spurred an online movement on Facebook and YouTube called ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day’ wherein users protested censorship of the images. These online protests had a global impact, leading Pakistan and Bangladesh to briefly ban Facebook and sparked important discussions about free speech, respect for other traditions, and religious expression in online environments.

Over the next two years, I hope to carefully investigate the language used in antagonistic interaction on YouTube during Everybody Draw Muhammad Day. I will build on previous research showing that metaphor played an important role in contributing to negative evaluations and offensive interactions between atheist and Christians users on YouTube. By analysing how language is used in videos made for and in response to ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day 2010,’ I hope to reveal the nuts and bolts of antagonism embedded in language, showing how language use contributed to perceptions of offence and misunderstanding between users.

I believe strongly that identifying moments of antagonism in language use could serve as an important resource for scholars and religious practitioners, particularly those struggling to resolve conflict around religious expression and free speech. Rather than discuss disagreements between users primarily in terms of large-scale differences in cultural or religious beliefs, I believe that starting from a small-scale perspective and looking closely at actual moments of disagreement and antagonism in interaction helps make abstract disagreements much clearer, and therefore, potentially easier to solve.

Instead of first talking about long histories of offense, I think there is value in focusing on single moments in interaction and identifying clearly in the language where misunderstanding is occurring. Once we can identify these moments where people are clearly misunderstanding one another, I think we can begin to talk about how antagonism can be diffused. Ultimately, we may be able to develop tools for positive, constructive interaction through more effective communication.

In the spirit of meaningful online dialogue, if this research sounds like it might be useful to you in your work or ministry, I would love to hear from you. Send me a message at with the subject line ‘Potential Impact’. Any and all thoughts would be welcome. Let the dialogue begin!

Stephen Pihlaja is a PhD Student a the Open University, UK

Hindu Community Makes Its White House Debut

by Joshua Stanton
from Huffington Post

Hinduism is hardly new to the United States. Swami Vivekenanda is thought to have first introduced it when he visited as part of the World’s Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. He received a standing ovation from the 7,000 people in audience, whom he declared his “Sisters and Brothers of America.”

In spite of Vivekenanda’s reception, subsequent series of lectures, and ultimately the establishment of the Vedantic Society of New York, with satellites in Boston and San Francisco, Hinduism remained a tiny presence in the United States for decades. It was but a demographic trickle. Only after 1965, with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which eased immigration from India and the rest of Asia to the United States, did the population of Hindus begin to grow. They now comprise a reputed .4 percent of the U.S. Population or, depending on whose arithmetic, 1.2 million people.

And what a population it is! According to the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, nearly half of Hindus living in the United States in 2009 had a post-graduate degree, by far the highest percentage of any community and five times the national average. As a population, they appear to be socially mobile and rising quickly within American society.

Hindu communal organizations similarly appear to be burgeoning; there may be as many as 1,600 Hindu Temples and centers across the country. And now the Hindu community is developing a national infrastructure.

Click here to read the full article

Interfaith Tips: Telling Our Stories

by Yaira Robinson from State of Formation

Going to the park, to work, to the grocery store or pretty much anywhere today is venturing out into a religiously pluralistic setting. In all of those places, there are bound to be people who profess different religious beliefs than you do, or who profess no beliefs at all. In many of these settings, we keep quiet about our religious views so as not to offend or distance ourselves from others. I wonder, though, if this leaves us saying nothing real at all, and sometimes increases the distance between us rather than bringing us together in actual relationship.

Engaging in interfaith work takes this everyday religious pluralism to a whole new level. For this work, there are no roadmaps, no graduate certification programs, no experts; there are just individual people trying the best they can to forge new paths of partnership and mutual understanding. Because of the interfaith environmental justice work in which I’ve participated for the last three years, I’ve thought a lot about how to be an individual person of particular faith in an intensely and intentionally religiously pluralistic setting. Below are some things I’ve learned; perhaps they are also applicable for your local park or workplace, or for late-night interfaith conversations with your neighborhood grocery clerk (and if you try that, I’d love to hear how the conversation goes).

1. Share your religious story (in a respectful, non-proselytizing kind of way). When you share your story with others, it helps them feel comfortable sharing their stories with you.

2. Know your religious story. In order to share your religious story, you first have to have one. Whatever your religious (or non-religious) tradition is, know it and live it. For me, this means being an active member of my synagogue and engaging in regular study, practice and prayer.

Click here to read the full article

Do We Have To Pray Together?

Rabbi Michael Balinsky

Rabbi Michael Balinsky

by Rabbi Michael Balinsky
CPWR Trustee

“Do we have to pray together?”

I asked this to Dirk Ficca just before my first board meeting as a new trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. I was relieved with his response: Members of the CPWR do not pray together, in order to recognize the differences that exist between our traditions.

As an Orthodox rabbi, I am part of a tradition that has been wary of inter-religious dialogue. For some, the tension historically has been one of suspicion about the motives of those who sought dialogue—and the lurking question if it may simply be a subterfuge for proselytizing.

Perhaps as significantly, however, has been the concern that in the search for common ground, we might dilute the theological uniqueness of each of our individual communities. That we might ignore the specific ways a community views its sacred traditions and texts.

A recent blog I read, written by a rabbinic colleague, commented on the biblical verse “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) and pointed out the universal nature of this ethic, listing its application in a number of other religious traditions. While the point was well taken, it would probably come as a surprise to most that in the vast majority of Jewish sources, this is not a universal ethic, but one often understood by our sages to apply only within the Jewish community.

Now this is not to say that Jews (and the tradition they follow) only care about fellow Jews and not about others; obviously Jews do. But the imperative to engage others and the world emerges elsewhere in the tradition. For most classical Jewish thinkers, a “neighbor” is the one with whom I share a common religious language, practice, and destiny. What might at first seem common to all is really unique expression of a particularistic community.

My experience with the Parliament has been one in which multiple religious communities can gather together, explore the unique dimensions of each of its members’ traditions, and then seek ways to collaborate on the issues facing all of us as a global community. The Parliament does so by creating the space where open discussion can occur, where a living laboratory of religious people can ask questions and seek greater understanding—and then be called to action to help others.

As a member of the Jewish community, I experience and live my life in a covenental relationship with God that expresses itself through my fulfillment of commandments and God’s bestowal of those commandments for me to fulfill. I certainly seek to share the wisdom I get from my tradition. But I do not claim that these commandments are obligatory to those outside of my community.

It is to the credit of the Parliament that at the end of the day I am given room to seek out my own sacred space—and pray alone or with fellow members of my community, in fulfillment of the religious obligation I understand prayer to be for me as a Jew. But then I am also given room to join with others and work on sustaining the world, far beyond the bounds of my religious community alone.

With Love From the Middle East: Meet the Women Building Peace

Let's Talk: Global Room for WomenGlobal Room for Women is a global community of women who dialogue, listen, discover and engage together. In our program, you decide what is right for you.  You choose your own experience.

In a warm and inviting space of live teleconferences, you will come to know women personally from around the world — mostly remarkable women from developing countries.  We begin each call by listening to one woman’s story. Our featured guests live in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, South Africa, and beyond.

But that’s only half the story. You are invited to share your own voice, talk with our global guest, and have your own conversations with other amazing women in the audience from around North America. If you like, come and just listen!

Noa and Amara: A Real Interfaith Dialogue

From The Huffington Post

My 14-year-old daughter Noa has physical disabilities and learning disabilities. We spent much of her early years in waiting rooms of doctor’s offices, waiting rooms for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy — the list goes on and on. In the waiting rooms there were kids with cancer, kids with cerebral palsy, kids with autism, kids with amputated limbs, kids who had been born prematurely. In their daily lives these kids stood out, they had developmental delays, they were teased, they were picked last for every team at P.E., and some awful teacher was always burying them in the back row of every school performance. But in the waiting rooms no child stood out, no one was special. Everyone special was normal.

Noa has spent her life embracing differences as normal. And she also has known the sting of being left out and mistreated because of her own differences.

This summer Noa signed up for a creative writing class at our local library. When I dropped her off on the first day, I saw that there was a Muslim girl in the class wearing a hijab, the Muslim head covering, who looked quite uncomfortable and shy. When I came to pick Noa up at the end of the day, I saw her and the Muslim girl, Amara, sitting together and giggling. They had already exchanged emails and cell-phone numbers.

Click here to read entire article.

September 20th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Katherine Marshall Op-Ed Published by Eureka Street

With its enticing title of “Men in dresses and conversations about peace” Katherine Marshall‘s op-ed on the importance of interreligious engagement draws its readers in from the start.  But this is a penetrating and rigorous look at dialogue that is, to quote Marshall, “right at the heart of today’s global agendas.”

To read the full op-ed, click here.

The Patheos Public Square

As you may have noticed, the main page of the Parliament of Religions has been recently energized by a series of images and questions. That’s why we’re so happy to see that our partners at are taking on compelling questions on their own website.

The Public Square is the center of vigorous interfaith conversation at  With a different subject assigned each week, members are able to wade deep into issues of serious social, political, cultural and theological import.

This week’s discussion revolves around the role of religion in democracy and vice versa. The page offers an overview of the subject (“Does Democracy Need Religion?”), a forum to discuss and blog about the question and survey snapshots and visuals to graphically distill a religious perspective into a tangible format. Finally, a drop down menu on the Public Square page offers viewers the opportunity to access arguments written from within specific faith traditions.

At the Council, we’re betting you have both informed and articulate opinions on the current question of politics and religion. Why not click over to and join the conversation?