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Announcing Parliament Grants to Strengthen Grassroots Interfaith Movements


Inviting Grassroots Interfaith Organizations to Grow with the Parliament

Let’s Strengthen Our Movement Together.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions will be awarding several grants to interfaith organizations in the United States, ranging from USD $5,000 to $30,000 on a competitive basis.

Priority will be given to initiatives seeking to expand their communication reach and connecting with guiding institutions (media, government, etc.), as well as initiatives seeking to counter hate and prejudice while fostering empathy and compassion.

However, any organization is free to apply.

Awards will be announced after July 1, 2015.

Apply by June 20 to stake your claim in funding your grassroots interfaith movement!

Sharing 5 Lessons on Non-Proliferation and the Interfaith Movement

By Parliament UN Youth Representative: Tahil Sharma

The United Religions Initiative organized a great panel of activists and ambassadors who work with communities through URI’s ‘Cooperation Circles’ across the globe to make nuclear weapons a thing of the past. People like Jonathan Granoff, a 2014 nominee for the Nobel Peace prize for his work advocating nuclear non-proliferation, and Dot Maver, an activist within the interfaith and peace-building spectrum, gave a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the potentials of nuclear energy and our current capabilities and uses in potentially destroying our world.

This webinar gave tools to productively say “NO!” to the atom and hydrogen bombs which threaten the greatest potential of destroying our environment and our civilization as we know it.

  1. Remembering the everlasting impact – Meltdowns like Chernobyl and Fukushima, the obliterating potential of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the continued tests of nuclear weapons has a lasting effect on many people around the world and our environment. Believe it or not, victims of the atom bombing on Japan today face significant social and political stigma. They are stereotyped and treated as second-class citizens, which is preventing them from speaking out about their experiences. Some of the worst discrimination sees forms of insurance withheld that would help to treat ongoing side effects of the blasts. The majority of society apathetically forgets that our current nuclear weaponry has the potential to destroy the world a thousand times over. (Random fact: Japan has set up a stratified system of coverage for those affected by the bombs based on distance, the manner in which they received any form of radiation poisoning, and depending on the age group. Children within the womb during the blast, for example, are not eligible for coverage or benefits.)
  2. The non-signatories of the NPT – Israel, India, Pakistan, South Sudan and North Korea have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which mandates only the peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the goal of complete disarmament. This plays out as a great challenge for the security and stability of the world, so we continue to find and build movements for non-violence and conflict resolution. Pranab Mukherjee, the then External Affairs Minister and now current President of India, stated in a trip to India in 2007 that “If India did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because we consider NPT as a flawed treaty and it did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment.” (India Times, 5/23/07) The ambiguity of such a statement can be dangerous, seeing that the continued competition for arms and the instability of peace talks between India and Pakistan could create a sense of discomfort and anxiety in the matter of growing political, social, and economic power. With all of this in mind, the speakers continued to reaffirm our ability as a civil society; as interfaith leaders and activists, we have the power to make a difference and influence the decisions necessary in abhorring and abolishing nuclear weapons.
  3. Storytelling Holds Great Potential – From the personal stories of transformation of the Hibakusha (Survivors of the Atomic bombs in Japan) to live in the 21st century, to the new generations that demand no harm to any innocent human beings, every story has its potential to change minds, strengthen hearts, and move forward. URI UN Representative Monica Willard made note of such power by reciting the poem 20,000,000 by Justine Merritt. In a few succinct moments, she verbalized the potential of annihilation that a nuclear weapon threatens by enumerating the figure 20 million, accounting for the count of lives in the state of California. How profound and bleak a future sounds when you know it can be obliterated in seconds.
  4. The Groundswell of the Common Man – There are a variety of ways that we, as individuals, can work together to change the status quo. Consider petitions like the Peace and Planet Petition for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (that will be presented to the United Nations on April 26th), planting A-Bomb Surviving Saplings in your community and hosting A-Bomb photo exhibitions, and believing we have the potential to stand up against the destruction of humanity and the biosphere. We must engage communities and organizations around the world, and collaborate in activism, education, and service, to raise awareness and empathy in friends and strangers alike. “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This same potential can reach the highest levels through encouraging legislators and members of parliaments to join the Parliamentarians for Nuclear non-Proliferation and Disarmament to influence policy and law in the abolition of the nuclear use of weapons.
  5. Reflecting on the Power In Our Hands – Before we began the webinar, Rt. Rev. Bill Swing, Founder and President of the United Religions Initiative, read a prayer that reminded me of the beauty and power of all faith traditions, secular perspectives, and spiritual practices; it reminded me that the power to create and destroy was in the hands of all human beings. My own faith traditions of Hinduism and Sikhism have always reminded me that every good and bad action is accounted for and that I am immediately repaid through the karma I deserve. If it is not in my mind and heart that I must work to change and save the world in every way possible, I am doing a disservice to myself, the world and to the Divine I eternally devote myself to.

Can Faith Leaders Help Heal Islamophobia in the Kosher Aisle?

As tensions rise across faith lines during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Parliament Trustee Janaan Hashim shares this photo of 22-year-old daughter Zaineb who experienced hate speech by a shopper in a Kosher section of a grocery store.

By Janaan Hashim, Esq.
Trustee, Parliament of the World’s Religions

My 22-year-old daughter stopped off at a nearby store to grab some groceries on her way home from work.  She has frequented this store and its Kosher section since moving closer to work, happy to find a place that sells food that she can eat, since food from “ahalal kitab” or “people of the book” is considered halal, or permissible for Muslims to eat.

At first she thought it was her post-work appearance that caused the looks and, with one woman in particular, the glares.

Zaineb carries her grandmother’s Scotts-Irish complexion, and, but for her hijab, no one would know she is Muslim.  But she has chosen to wear her hijab since her younger days, proud to be Muslim and happy to practice her faith without inhibition.

In the store, Zaineb told me, the glaring woman kept crossing her path.  And then, out of nowhere, she approached Zaineb and, with a scowl on her face, said straight to Zaineb, “Yikh,” then turned and left.  Zaienb was stunned.  And then it clicked.  The realities of the Holy Land have seeped across our borders and onto our land.

I listened to Zaineb, reflected, and prayed.  What emboldened this woman to do such an ugly act toward my daughter?  Would she have the fortitude and gall to do this to a Black woman, a Hispanic, a White?  Doubtful.

I then realized that if people can feel so empowered as to approach a complete stranger and strew their hate toward her, then America hasn’t matured over the decades; in fact, it’s more of an illusive maturity we have, more superficial than substantive.  To me, this woman’s action is the continuation of an ugly, downward spiral for Muslim Americans.  But, I truly believe, it can be stopped, and it can be stopped now.

Zaineb with two of her students in an after-school student enrichment program for Chicago’s inner-city kids which she founded while in college.

I call upon faith leaders to remind their congregants of the importance of always seeing the human in the other.  My daughter did nothing wrong.  And yet, a strange woman decided that my daughter was less than she.  Faith leaders, remind your worshipers to love the other simply because of who created the other and out of love for that creator.  Remind your congregants that we are all God’s children and not to let political differences abroad interfere with the human dignity afforded here at home.

Our laws are in place to bring civility to an otherwise chaotic society.  And while we may have two rights directly opposing each other – freedom of expression and freedom of religion – I urge our faith leaders to take charge and remind their members of the importance of doing unto others as they would have done unto themselves.

Faith leaders: I charge you with maintaining the civility that our faiths call upon.  I charge you with sending a message of peace and harmony between your congregants and the strangers they meet.  I charge you with guiding your people toward not judging a “woman by her clothing” but to, rather, judge others by their actions, and not the actions of people in a land far away.

My daughter was in a store shopping in America of the 21st Century.  Let’s make sure that years from now, such judgmental and degrading treatment is seen only as an isolated incident and not something so endemic that those on the wayside were too blind to see it, too blind to stop it.  Faith leaders and people of faith: let’s stop this hate before it winds into an uncontrollable, spiral downturn that our country has seen in the past.

Janaan Hashim, Esq. is a Trustee of the Parliament, partner at Amal Law Group, LLC and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.

August 1st, 2014 at 10:46 am

Engaging Faith In the Neighborhood Retreat Registration Closing Soon

Registration closes July 5 for a 3-day intensive interfaith leadership development retreat for adults over July 23 – 25 with Chicago-based Seminary Consortium on Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE).

Parliament of the World’s Religion Board Trustee and SCUPE President Shanta Premawardhana says, “During these times of significant religious diversity in our communities, it is very important that we begin to understand how to relate to people of other faiths. It requires interfaith literacy, interfaith action, and it requires us to come to know each other and build community together. A lot of the time we are not able to do that because we don’t understand theologically how to make it work.”

Dr. Lucinda Mosher of Hardford Seminary will lead workshop participants on site visits to a Sikh gurdwara, a Hindu temple, and a Greek Orthodox Church, enjoying meals and accommodations just outside Chicago.  It will be an opportunity to answer critical questions by learning “what moves them, what gives them meaning and purpose of life,” says Premawardhana.

The course will begin with a day-long course in Interfaith engagement, followed by two days of site visits with meals included at houses worship. Registration tiers begin with student commuter rates and cap at full shared hotel accommodations and meals.

Workshop objectives include: empowering interfaith leaders, creating a safe space to learn, equipping the participants with teachable resources, discussing America’s religious diversity, building courage to visit new places of worship, building community among the participants, training in effective speaking about interfaith engagement, teaching the history of modern interfaith movement, practicing interfaith engagement, and developing skills to foster interfaith relationships. For more information please visit

July 1st, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Measuring Global Millennials On Religious Attitudes

\Graphic by Viacom International The Next Normal Project

The average percentage of global youth trusting religious leaders is now in the single digits. This “mass exodus” is becoming a pervasive challenge for a lion’s share of the world’s major faith traditions while leaders grapple, struggle, and investigate. Even framing the issue is problematic and poses controversy. So how can the claim religious leaders are performing best in South Africa to connecting to youth be considered credible?

Viacom International, the media corporation owning MTV networks and numerable communications platform  is spearheading an ambitious research endeavor. “The Next Normal” plans to be the largest, sharpest, and most comprehensive survey of Millennials (Gen-Y, predecessors to “Digital Natives) in the world. In April, research conducted by the project reported a comprehensive look at the generational character on religion, spirituality and faith  nation by nation.

Some of the most significant findings include South African millennials having the most trust for religious leaders of any nationality, and that Japanese and Saudi Arabian Millennials are the most inflexible in terms of individualism and choice in religious matters.

Most significant of all is that these numbers are powerful and help plot the future of interfaith around the world.

The study shows,

In exploring Millennial attitudes toward religion, faith and spirituality across the globe, we found that overall, this generation believes that everybody should have the right to choose their own religion. But their openness and tolerance are also marked by distrust in organised religion, as well as distinctions between faith and spirituality in some countries.

On average, only 9% of Millennials say they trust their religious leader and only 10% name “religious leader” among the top 5 inspirational people or bodies of people in their lives (compared to 19% for celebrities and 14% for sports stars).  In terms of trust in religious leaders (who could be anyone from a local priest, preacher, imam or rabbi to the Pope), South Africa comes out strongest with a score of 29% trust – still a relatively small minority – followed by USA on 24% and Turkey on 17%.

Trust in religious leaders is lowest in France (2%), Japan and Spain (both 3%).

Continue reading the report…

So where are the magic answers?

The New Digital Age Google forcecasts shows us that via the internet, humans will increasingly utilize their virtual passports to meet on the social web. This creates unprecedented and uncontrollable influences on millennial attitudes, and may reveal why, some unexpectedly, the youth of certain nationalities are shifting longstanding views on religion.

Considering the parallel, but alternate universe existing on and off the world wide web, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt recently shared a shocking measure of our day and age. In North Korea, he met women conducting traffic that have become YouTube sensations for their strange, revealing clothing and mythical relationship with the supreme leader. Yet, these women don’t have the slightest notional understanding of YouTube, let alone the internet. Nowadays, the web enables geophysical outsiders unprecedented access into clues about what makes any nation’s people tick.

Cultivating Online What We Do Face to Face

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is the one global event where these relationships can be built organically through personal encounter, with the intentional and expressed purpose of cultivating international bonds of harmony through interfaith understanding.  Historically, youth have made remarkable contributions to the Parliament, and leave changed for life. The difference for the next Parliament is that these meeting will have already happened through introductions on the web.

Can we gauge the meaning of all this, and should we? Does the Parliament answer to the youth exodus? The results of this survey is consistent with the reports flurrying in from all corners of the world in our Global Listening Campaign. These sessions conducted by Parliament Ambassadors have uniquely national flair, but express one sentiment that is resoundingly the same: have we lost our youth? How can we get them back? 

The Parliament’s answer is simple: engage online, and act proactively to talk with youth. If confidence is greatest in favor of South African faith leaders, it must mean that faith leaders deliver on their promises and in an age of expecting results, they must act on their word.

Do you find this to be true? How do religious institutions answer to the attitudes of youth to engage millennials in religious and spiritual communities inclusive to all living generations? What can the Parliament do?

  • To share a response in writing to become part of a Parliament online publication, please e-mail
  • To pursue Ambassador opportunities to hold a Listening Session in your community, please e-mail



As A Sikh-American I Refuse To Live In Fear And Negativity

Photography credit to State of Formation

Simran Jeet Singh

by Simran Jeet Singh
from State of Formation

As a Sikh-American, I am absolutely heart-broken.

As soon as news broke about the massacre in Wisconsin, my parents called me to make sure I was safe. Our conversation was eerily similar to the moments immediately after 9/11.

After making sure I was safe, they asked me to be careful walking around the streets of New York City. They pointed out that: “You never know what someone might do.”

While I accepted their advice, their words crushed me.

As a Sikh, I believe that people are inherently good. Our faith instills a sense of perpetual optimism, and our traditions teach us to always make the best of a tough situation.

Fear and negativity are foreign to our vocabulary. Sikhs are not a God-fearing people; we are God-loving.

The commitment to love and optimism shapes the way that Sikhs interact with their societies, and I’m concerned that becoming cynical and negative might lead us down a slippery slope.

So I am making a conscious decision. I am refusing to accept that human beings are malicious and hateful, and I am rejecting the notion that we need to live in fear.

Click here to read full article

Guadalajara Hosts Multicultural Universal Dialogue

From Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 2 September, 2012 at the Historic Center of Guadalajara, Cabañas Cultural Institute (Heritage) in Guadalajara, Mexico, a Multicultural Universal Dialogue will be hosted, with the following objectives:

  • Encouraging the building of peace and equity.
  • Speaking around that which unites us, regardless of race, creed or social status.
  • Bringing our ideas to solve problems that are common to all.

Participants in the Dialogue event will hail from religious, spiritual, indigenous, and academic communities, and humanitarian, women’s, environmental, Elders, youth and children-based organizations. All persons interested in the intercultural dialogue and coexistence between different cultures, religions and spiritual manifestations are welcome. This event will aim to preserve the autonomy of principles and personal and collective identity, and find answers to social conflicts that afflict all people.

Content will include:

a) Ecology

b) Human Rights

c) Children

d) Youth

e) Wisdom of the Elders

Where do we go? Where do we go? Another world is possible!

Themes of the conference will also include:

The Earth and Humanity

The Role of Women in the News

Millennial Heritage of Our Peoples

Building Peace through Hope, Harmony and Solidarity

Science, Technology and Religion

Spirituality with or without religion

The Program will include: conferences, panels, dialogues, a blessing ceremony, artistic and cultural events, art exhibitions, music, dance, film, discussions around faith, globalization, cultural identity and migration, and intercultural relations.

Ultimately, the event hopes to cultivate development and peace-building, greater consciousness of respect for life and diversity of beliefs and values; promotion of intercultural celebration, equality, and justice.  Cultural diversity is the most reliable guarantee of social cohesion and provides inspiration to achieve a better world.
The spiritual and human strength help us believe in ourselves and open our hearts to others. We can make a different world.

Click here to learn more about the event (this link is in Spanish)

The Rabbi And The Christian Cab Driver

Author Rabbi Brad Hirschfield. Photo from

by Brad Hirschfield
from the Huffington Post

I flew into Syracuse, N.Y., on a windy evening in October of 2000. After we landed, I hailed a cab. This not being New York City, where I am from, there was no cab line, no wait and no time to look at the car I was jumping into.

As soon as I was in the cab however, I noticed that pretty much every surface of the car’s interior was covered with a JESUS LOVES YOU sticker, that there was a crucifix mounted on the dashboard and there were even little green pocket bibles hanging on strings at the point where the windshield meets the frame of the car. This wasn’t just a cab, it was a rolling cathedral!

Part of me thought I should just jump out of the car, but we were already pulling away from the curb and I didn’t want to cause any trouble or cost the driver his fare.

As he pulled out of the airport, the cabdriver, a middle-aged man with a scraggly beard, lo
ng greasy blond hair and wearing a red checkered shirt, cut off at the sleeves, was checking me out in the rearview mirror. He was actually using his rearview mirror to see if what he thought he saw on the back of my head (a kippah/yarmulke/skullcap) was really there.

Having decided that it was really back there, which it was, he finally asked in the raspy voice of a heavy smoker, “So, what do you do?”

Click here to read the full article

Irish Bill Proposes Full Legal Status for Humanist Weddings

by Deaglan de Breadun
from The Irish Times

The government is expected to agree today to back legislation giving humanists the same status as organised religions and civil registrars in conducting marriage ceremonies.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton is due to ask her ministerial colleagues to support the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill at this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

The legislation was introduced in the Seanad as a Private Members’ Bill by Trinity College Senator Ivana Bacik and is due to pass final stages in the Upper House tomorrow.

The Bill proposes to amend the Civil Registration Act 2004, which regulates the registration of civil marriages.

The 2004 Act stipulates that, apart from Health Service Executive registrars, only a member of a “religious body” may celebrate legal marriages.

This is defined as “an organised group of people, members of which meet regularly for common religious worship”.

This includes organisations such as the Pagan Federation Ireland and the Spiritualist Union of Ireland, which have obtained registration under the Act.

But the definition excludes members of the Humanist Association of Ireland, who currently conduct humanist wedding ceremonies even though these are not legally recognised.

The Bill proposes to extend the right to conduct civil marriages to nonreligious groups such as the HAI. A group of this nature must be a “philosophical and nonconfessional body”, have been performing marriage ceremonies for at least five years, and at least 20 couples must have participated in the ceremony.

Click here to read the full article

May 12th, 2012 at 10:55 am

Five Lessons on Faith

By Sally Quinn
From Washington Post

It was five years ago this month that we launched “On Faith.” The idea was to inform and educate about all faiths (and no faith) and to initiate an ongoing discussion about the role of religion, values and ethics in our daily lives. I hoped that after learning more, people would become more accepting of those who held different beliefs. Pluralism was the goal.

The discussions we have had over the years have far exceeded my expectations. What I find most gratifying is the inspired contributions from the subjects of our interviews, our contributing writers and our readers. From the volume of e-mails and comments, I know that others find the site as informative, provocative and entertaining as I do.

Since the time we launched I have never been so enthralled, learned so much or been so fulfilled by a subject. It has changed my perspective on life. It is clearly what I was meant to do.

Here are five things I have learned in these five years:

1. Nobody knows.

My favorite bumper sticker and the guiding wisdom for me every day is this: “I don’t know and you don’t either.”

An atheist father was trying to explain to his son that there was no such thing as God. “But Dad,” asked the boy, “how do you know?”

“You’ll just have to take it on faith,” said the father.

That says it all.

We are all taking our beliefs or lack of beliefs on faith.

Although I called myself an atheist when we started this site, I no longer do, thanks to Jon Meacham, the religious scholar and former Newsweek editor who helped launch the site. He also served as co-moderator until last year, when The Washington Post Co. sold Newsweek.

We were having an argument over whether or not I was an atheist. Finally, Jon said something that resonated. He said, “You don’t want to define yourself negatively, and you know nothing about religion.” He gave me a list of books to read and told me to go study religion. If afterward I insisted on calling myself an atheist, he argued, at least I would know what I was talking about.

I was astonished, engaged and finally enlightened by what I read and ashamed at how little I really knew about religion. I’m still reading and still learning, and it seems the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

Click here to read the full article

December 3rd, 2011 at 9:48 am