The Parliament Blog

Archive for the ‘melbourne 2009’ tag

Restoring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: A Pathway from Australia to Arizona

by Dave Weiman
from Cooking Together

At the January meeting, the UUA Trustees voted to place a responsive resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery on the business agenda for the General Assembly.  What is the Doctrine of Discovery?  Why have our partner organizations in Arizona called for its repudiation?  How are we as Unitarian Universalist people of faith called to respond?  For the next several weeks, Cooking Together bloggers will address these questions.  This post was written by Dave Weiman, who has been working with others to educate UUs about this issue. – Ed.

At 7:30 pm on December 3, 2009, Joy Murphy Wandin, senior woman of the Wurundjeri People, was the first person to greet the 6,000 plus people who had come together for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, with this traditional ‘Welcome to the Land’:

On behalf of the spiritual ancestors and the traditional owners of Melbourne, I invite you to Melbourne in 2009, for the Parliament of the World’s Religions to share in the traditions, culture and spirit of Australia.

I was impressed that special recognition was given to the Peoples who had nurtured the land for thousands of years.   The welcoming practice not just for the opening, occurred at the beginning of almost every event during the Parliament, large or small.  And in fact, at the start of Sunday Service at the local Unitarian Church, the same basic welcoming statement started the service.  It is important to note that the words in these messages of welcome are of and by the Peoples who are native to the land, not from government officials.

At the final Plenary of the Parliament more than a dozen Indigenous Peoples from around the globe, presented a ‘Statement to the World.’  The Statement explained Indigenous cultures and contributions, the negative outcomes of colonization, and the injustices suffered by Indigenous Peoples.   It concluded with seven ‘appeals’.  Of the seven, two became an important focus of my social justice work when I returned home.  One asked for all nations to implement and support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration), and another asked for the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery (Doctrine).

From the opening moment of the Parliament to its closing, I was being drawn into a social justice cause about which I had known virtually nothing.  Since the Parliament I’ve been learning more, about the Declaration and the Doctrine, and come to understand why these are so important, not only for Indigenous Peoples, but for all of us.

Interfaith Activity Is Growing

From The Bellingham Herald

On Sept. 11, there was a remarkable gathering in Olympia. With only a few days’ notice, a standing-room-only crowd assembled at the Unitarian Universalist Church to stand with our Muslim neighbors and to listen to Imam Nabil read from the Quran.

Interfaith friends from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and other communities were present, and many held copies of their personal Quran. Following the translation, reading and comments on the text, an opportunity was presented for clergy to speak. Later, lay people were asked to comment. A general spirit of oneness and support pervaded the sanctuary. Without the threats to burn the Quran by a Florida-based minister, it’s not likely that this gathering would have happened. Those attending saw firsthand how threats and hatred can catalyze a spirit of curiosity, camaraderie and support. How many Americans met on or around the anniversary of 9/11 to stand with our Muslim neighbors?

It’s noteworthy that media coverage for the pastor threatening to burn the Quran appeared in newspapers, on the Internet and television for days. The gatherings for interfaith support representing hundreds of thousands of people throughout the United States barely received a column on the back page of newspapers or comment on television news programs, yet the emergence of meaningful interfaith gatherings is a reality in our world.

On Dec. 3, 2009, 10 months earlier and halfway around the world, I was present for the opening of the Parliament of World’s Religions, in Melbourne, Australia. Our gathering was a long-delayed vision of religious leaders who attended the first of these four gatherings in Chicago in 1893. At that time, to even consider religious leaders from distinctly different faith traditions meeting together, talking together, praying together and discussing the role both of themselves and their religions in the major issues of the world, was at best fanciful. Perhaps more to the point: unfaithful, undesirable and dangerous.

But 116 years and four parliaments later, more than 6,000 attendees arrived in all their costumery despite the distance, despite the recession, despite the political tensions between countries. Greetings were shared across the vast spaces of the brand new convention center in Melbourne as Sikhs and Jews, Catholics and Muslims, Christian and Buddhist greeted one another, friends from previous gatherings.

Monks created their sand mandalas. A scroll to be delivered to the Copenhagen Climate Summit spanned 40 feet or more, ready to receive signatures. We ate together, laughed and prayed together. We watched one another’s documentaries and listened to one another’s hearts. We listened, not to convert or change, but to understand. Aware that we share the common ground of love and kindness, we discussed major issues such as the rights of indigenous peoples, availability of water, peace on the planet and climate change.

The program book we received had 360 pages and 650 sessions. There was a lot to talk about and even more to learn from one another. The president of the United States sent a team to ask questions and learn how to support peace through the wisdom of faith leaders and programs already in place. Interestingly, most of the news coverage focused on a small group of people outside the convention protesting the use of public space for religious use.

Click here to read the entire article.

Spiritual Intimacy and Interfaith Engagement

From Women’s Radio

Ruth Brodye Sharone, Co-Chair of the Southern California Committee for the Parliament of the World’s Religions and filmmaker shares her insights into the changes occurring within Religious and Spiritual communities.

Ruth and a group of 20 had been invited to present a workshop entitled “Spiritual Intimacy: Taking Interfaith Engagement to the Next Level.”

Her signature on her email is, No longer are there six degrees of separation between any two individuals in the world. There is only one degree-and even that is an illusion!

Ruth has a lot to share about the ripple of the changes and backlashes that began occurring since September 11, 2001.

Ruth’s Website

Weaving a Culture; what others are doing:


Click here to hear the interview.

A Reflection on the Parliament Indigenous Assembly

From Earth Spirit Voices

by Andras Corban Arthen

One of the most important events of the Parliament of the World’s Religions – the Indigenous Assembly – was, quite likely, the least visible: attendance was by invitation only, and it was held in a former convent several miles away from the Exhibition Center, where most of the other programs took place.

In keeping with one of the Parliament’s seven main themes (and as mentioned in these pages prior to the event), the idea of convening an Indigenous Assembly in Melbourne was, from the beginning, a major focus of the Indigenous Task Force’s plans – we wanted to create a space wherein the international representatives of Indigenous traditions traveling to Melbourne would get a chance to meet with their counterparts from Australia and the South Pacific to discuss issues of mutual relevance, and perhaps even come up with a joint statement to be delivered during one of the Parliament’s plenary sessions. Our initial plans called for a three-day assembly which, for the first two days, would be limited exclusively to the Indigenous delegates, then opened on the third day to include representatives from other cultures and religions. Unfortunately, budgetary and time constraints forced us to scale back our plans and keep the assembly to one day.

Early in the morning of Monday, 7 December, about fifty Indigenous representatives, volunteers and translators traveled to the Abbotsford Convent near Victoria Park, some six miles away. Most of us had already had breakfast, but upon arrival we were offered juice, pastries and other refreshments as we waited for everyone to arrive.

The proceedings started with a brief introduction by Task Force chair Omie Baldwin, followed by a traditional welcome to country by Auntie Joy Murphy Wandin, senior elder of the Wurundjeri people who are the traditional “owners” of the land that includes Melbourne. Wominjeka Wurundjeri Balluk yearmen koondi bik (“welcome to the land of the Wurundjeri People”), she intoned, as she did probably a dozen more times during the course of the Parliament; but each time she spoke those words they were like music, as fresh and as heartfelt as if she were saying them for the very first time, and we felt, indeed, very welcome. Auntie Joy had some very kind words to say to those of us who served on the Task Force and organized the event, and gave each of us an Aboriginal flag as a gift.

Click here to read the entire article.

2009 Parliament Statement of Indigenous People

An Indigenous Peoples’ Statement to the World

Delivered at The Parliament of the World’s Religions

Convened at Melbourne, Australia

on the Traditional Lands

of the Wurundjeri  People of the Kulin Nation

December 9, 2009

PREAMBLE

In keeping with the theme of this year’s Parliament: “Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth,” We, the Indigenous Peoples participating in this Parliament hereby issue this statement:

We are Indigenous Peoples and Nations who honor our ancestors and care for our future generations by preserving our lands and cultures. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have maintained a fundamental and sacred relationship with Mother Earth. As peoples of the land, we declare our inherent rights to our present and continuing survival within our sacred homelands and territories throughout the world;

We commend the Australian government’s recent support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We call on all governments to support and implement the provisions of the UN Declaration.

Since time immemorial we have lived in keeping with our sacred laws, principles, and spiritual values, given by the Creator. Our ways of life are based on thousands of years of accumulated ecological knowledge, a great respect for our Mother Earth, a reverence and respect for all our Natural World relations and the survival of our languages, cultures, and traditions.

The Indigenous instructions of sharing and the responsibility of leadership to future generations are wise and enduring. As the traditional nations of our lands we affirm the right to educate our children in our earth-based education systems in order to maintain our indigenous knowledge systems and cultures. These have also contributed to our spiritual, physical and mental health;

Indigenous peoples concept of health and survival is holistic, collective and individual.

Indigenous Elders

It encompasses the spiritual, the intellectual, the physical and the emotional. Expressions of culture relevant to health and survival of Indigenous Peoples includes relationships, families, and kinship, social institutions, traditional laws, music, dances, songs and songlines, ceremonies and dreamtime, our ritual performances and practices, games, sports, language, mythologies, names, land, sea, water, every life forms, and all documented forms and aspects of culture, including burial and sacred sites, human genetic materials, ancestral remains, so often stolen, and our artifacts;

Unfortunately, certain doctrines have been threatening to the survival of our cultures, our languages, and our peoples, and devastating to our ways of life. These are found in particular colonizing documents such as the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493, which called for the subjugation of non-Christian nations and peoples and “the propagation of the Christian empire.” This is the root of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery that is still interwoven into laws and policies today that must be changed. The principles of subjugation contained in this and other such documents, and in the religious texts and documents of other religions, have been and continue to be destructive to our ways of life (religions), cultures, and the survival of our Indigenous nations and peoples. This oppressive tradition is what led to the boarding schools, the residential schools, and the Stolen Generation, resulting in the trauma of language death and loss of family integrity from the actions of churches and governments. We call on those churches and governments to put as much time, effort, energy and money into assisting with the revitalization of our languages and cultures as they put into attempting to destroy them.

The doctrines of colonization and dominion have laid the groundwork for contemporary problems of racism and dispossession. These problems include the industrial processes of resource exploitation and extraction by governments and corporations that has consistently meant the use of imposed laws to force the removal of Indigenous peoples from our traditional territories, and to desecrate and destroy our sacred sites and places. The result is a great depletion of biodiversity and the loss of our traditional ways of life, as well as the depletion and contamination of the waters of Mother Earth from mining and colonization.

Such policies and practices do not take into account that water is the first law of life and a gift from the Creator for all beings. Clean, healthy, safe, and free water is necessary for the continuity and well being of all living things. The commercialization and poisoning of water is a crime against life.

The negative ethics of contemporary society, discovery, conquest, dominion, exploitation, extraction, and industrialization, have brought us to today’s crisis of global warming. Climate change is now our most urgent issue and affecting the lives of indigenous peoples at an alarming rate. Many of our people’s lives are in crisis due to the rapid global warming. The ice melt in the north and rapid sea rise continue to accelerate, and the time for action is brief.

The Earth’s resources are finite and the present global consumption levels are unsustainable and continue to affect our peoples and all peoples. Therefore, we join the other members of the Parliament in calling for prompt, immediate, and effective action at Copenhagen to combat climate change;

On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In support of this historic event, the Episcopalian Church in the United States adopted a resolution at its 76th General Convention in July 2009, repudiating and disavowing the dehumanizing Doctrine of Christian Discovery. By doing so, the Church took particular note of the charter issued by King Henry VII of England to John Cabot and his sons, which authorized the colonizing of North America. It was by this ‘boss over’ tradition of Christian discovery that the British crown eventually laid claim to the traditional territories of the Aboriginal nations of the continent now called Australia, under terra nullius and terra nullus. This step by the Episcopalian Church was an act of conscience and moral leadership by one of the world’s major religions. Religious bodies of Quakers and Unitarians have taken similar supportive actions.

In Conclusion, we appeal to all people of conscience to join with us: We hereby call upon Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to publicly acknowledge and repudiate the papal decrees that legitimized the original activities that have evolved into the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Dominion.

Click here to download this document.

The Interfaith Youth Movement Down Under

From The Journal of Inter-religious Dialogue

Nivy is a Hindu. She loves Aussie rules football. And her goal is helping others.  When she was growing up in the Middle East, Nivy experienced firsthand how religious identity shaped the way people related to one another.

Recovering in hospital after a serious accident, Nivy’s background as an Indian Hindu all of a sudden became an issue, and had she not also been an Australian citizen it is likely her treatment would have been jeopardized. Now, years on, this experience of prejudice remains with her as a vivid memory. Nivy is a young person in an era of inter-religious conflict, and in understanding just what is at stake she is working to build global interfaith cooperation. She is part of a movement of religiously motivated young people who (although their individual stories are unique) share a common vision.

Nivy is just one of the young leaders helping to build InterAction, a multifaith youth network based here in Australia. InterAction has a mission of fostering mutually enriching relationships and respect for identity by engaging young people in common action for the common good. We are inspired youth from diverse cultural, spiritual & religious backgrounds, working together side-by-side to build a better world. Through collaborative service projects, InterAction links like-minded groups and individuals to make positive contributions to their local communities and humanity as a whole. By doing so, we aim to replace conflict and competition with cultures of co-operation and peace.

We subscribe to the model of action-focused interfaith engagement. Not everyone can be an expert in theology, but each person already is the expert of their own experience. In building inter-religious harmony, the doorway to dialogue is action.  By collaborating on service projects which tackle issues of common concern, we can truly come to recognize one another as allies and friends.  In this way, not only can people of different faiths share the one table, we can each enjoy our different dishes and come away feeling mutually nourished and enriched by the experience.


Click here to read the entire article.

Professor Desmond Cahill’s Work with Immigrants

Prof. Desmond Cahill

Prof. Desmond Cahill

From Moonee Valley Weekly

PROFESSOR Desmond Cahill’s passion for spreading goodwill and the celebration of religious and cultural diversity is without question.

The 64-year-old Flemington resident, leader of intercultural studies at RMIT University, has for decades worked with waves of immigrants trying to integrate into their new home here.

This career started after another ended, with the former Catholic priest choosing his wife and a family over the priesthood, a decision he says is the hardest he has had to make.

“I had to make a choice. I made the choice and the rest is history. That was the most difficult decision I ever had to make. [But] it’s not one that I regret.”

Professor Cahill recalls the first wave of Italian and Maltese immigrants who ventured to Australia in the mid-’60s and needed support.

He says his pathway from priest to professor was logical because of his background working with migrants. He has worked at RMIT for decades, predominantly looking at the integration of ethnic communities, such as Latin Americans.

One of his main roles has been developing multicultural studies so that others could go and work with ethnic communities, and training others to teach Languages Other Than English courses in schools.

A Vietnamese program focusing on the integration of Vietnamese into Australian society started in the 1980s. It led to RMIT establishing a campus in Ho Chi Min City.

“It’s always brought me great satisfaction in working with immigrant communities and with immigrants and refugees who want to update their qualifications in Australia or train for new roles,” Professor Cahill says.

As well as his work in intercultural studies, Professor Cahill is chairman of the Australian chapter for Religions for Peace International, the world’s largest interfaith organisation.

In 2006, he led Melbourne’s successful bid to host last year’s Parliament of the World’s Religions, the world’s largest interfaith gathering, which attracted 6500 delegates.

“It’s to bring the religions together in understanding and harmony and to develop joint actions on addressing the world’s major issues in climate change, social cohesion in multifaith societies, food and water for everyone, global peace.”

Awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia this year for his service to intercultural education, Professor Cahill says he was humbled by the honour.

“It’s an award to me, but it’s also an award to my RMIT colleagues and to my colleagues in the interfaith movement throughout Australia and the world.”

Professor Cahill says his work in promoting goodwill has given him great satisfaction.

“[The best part] is bringing people together, especially in Australia, through the whole multifaith movement and bringing about harmony between the different multicultural communities and between the different religions.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Shambhala Sun Interview with the Council

From the Shambhala SunSpace,

The first Parliament of the World’s Religions Event, held in 1893 in Chicago, was not only one of the earliest and most important interfaith gatherings in modern history, but also a watershed in the history of Buddhism’s transmission to the West. This past December saw the fifth Parliament in a 116-year period occur in Melbourne, Australia. The theme of this event, Make a World of Difference: Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth, reflected “the urgent need for religious and spiritual communities and all people of goodwill to act on their concerns for the environment, peace, and overcoming poverty, and to take responsibility for cultivating awareness of our global interconnectedness.”Dalai Lama and the Council

As with all of the Parliament events, this one included significant meetings and discussions between Buddhists and others. My friend and former Naropa University colleague Alisa Roadcup, who now serves as Outreach Director and Development Associate for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions spoke with me via email about significant aspects of the Parliament for Buddhists…

The first Parliament event, held in 1893 in Chicago, was not only one of the earliest and most important interfaith gatherings in modern history, but a watershed in the history of Buddhism’s transmission to the West. Would you say something about the role that that Parliament, subsequent Parliaments, and the Council have played in this sense?

The 1893 Parliament was not only a fundamental event in the history of the interfaith movement, but also the first formal presentation of Eastern religions to the West. This introduction presented the opportunity for Buddhist study that helped to develop an emerging field of comparative religious studies that today is so important to the interfaith movement.

For Buddhism to emerge from the 1893 Parliament with as much respect and popularity as it did says a great deal, given the auspices of the first Parliament as a subtle means to announce the universal supremacy of Christianity. Buddhist presenters endured the assumption that religions outside of Christianity were inferior. This sleight of hand is obvious in some of the 1893 titles alone, such as “Some Characteristics of Buddhism as it exists in Japan Which Indicate that it is Not a Final Religion”, and “What the Christian Bible has Wrought for the Orient”. Buddhist presenters forged ahead in spite of this discrimination and courageously established their religion as one worthy of respect and admiration. This forbearance and humility played a role in Buddhism’s establishment in Western conversation.

A remarkable Buddhist presence was Anagarika Dharmapala in 1893. With an ancient statue of the Buddha resting on the platform beside him – Dharmapala gave two addresses on the Four Noble Truths and The Law of Karma, presenting formal teachings to a Western audience for the first time. Shaku Soyen was another remarkable leader, remembered as the person who brought the beloved Zen scholar, D.T. Suzuki to the West.

At one point, Dharmapala compared the 1893 Parliament to the Council of Asoka, and predicted that Dr. Barrows (an 1893 Parliament organizer) would be remembered as the “American Asoka”. This comparison offers insight into the high esteem Buddhist leaders held for the 1893 Parliament and the level of importance they believe it had for Buddhism’s transmission to the West. These presenters were also influential representatives from different traditions within Buddhism, which provided the 1893 audience with a glimpse of Buddhism’s rich diversity.

Paul Carus’s contribution is of key importance. In 1894, the year after the inaugural 1893 Parliament, Dr. Carus wrote The Gospel of Buddha, the classic text on Buddhism, which introduced many Westerners to the teachings of the Buddha. Because it resembled a Christian “gospel” in structure, it was more culturally compatible for Christian audiences. Paul Carus is remembered as a bridge-builder between religions and science, philosophy and society and Buddhism and Christianity.

Today, the Carus family remains a major supporter of the Council by offering The Paul Carus Award for Outstanding Interreligious Achievement, which provides a $100,000 grant to leaders in the interfaith movement at every Parliament.

The Parliaments have certainly played an important role in terms of Buddhism becoming a global phenomenon.

While Parliaments from 1993 onward have brought many people to greater awareness of the dharma, the religion was already a global phenomenon by the 1993 Parliament, in large part due to the precedent set in 1893.

The expanse of time between the 1893 and 1993 Parliaments did not hinder Buddhism’s flourishing in the West. Both an increase in Asian immigration and continued intrigue in Buddhism post-Parliament led to Buddhism’s growth. This set the stage for Buddhism occupying a much greater role in terms of the large number of Buddhist participants and programs at the 1993 Parliament and subsequent Parliaments.

Click here to read more about Buddhist participation at the 2009 Parliament

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama at the 2009 Parliament

The Dalai Lama at the 2009 Parliament

Do you ever feel angry or outraged?Kantesh Guttal, PUNE, INDIA
Oh, yes, of course. I’m a human being. Generally speaking, if a human being never shows anger, then I think something’s wrong. He’s not right in the brain. [Laughs.]

How do you stay so optimistic and faithful when there is so much hate in the world?Joana Cotar, FRANKFURT
I always look at any event from a wider angle. There’s always some problem, some killing, some murder or terrorist act or scandal everywhere, every day. But if you think the whole world is like that, you’re wrong. Out of 6 billion humans, the troublemakers are just a handful.

How has the role set out for you changed since you first came to be the Dalai Lama?Andy Thomas, CARMARTHEN, WALES
I became the Dalai Lama not on a volunteer basis. Whether I was willing or not, I [had to study] Buddhist philosophy like an ordinary monk student in these big monastic institutions. Eventually I realized I have a responsibility. Sometimes it is difficult, but where there is some challenge, that is also truly an opportunity to serve more.

Mother Maya’s Living Ahimsa World Tour

Sri Swami Mayatitananda Saraswati, also known as Mother Maya,is currently travelingLiving Ahimsa World Tour through Canada as part of her Living Ahimsa World Tour 2009-2012. Her tour began at the 2009 Parliament, upon completion of the 108th Peace Mandala at the event. Since then, Mother Maya has toured the United States and will now visit 13 Canadian cities through July.

Mother Maya is a healer, educator, and author and founded the Wise Earth School of Aryuveda. One of the few women to be ordained as a Vedic monk (Swami), Mother Maya promotes ahimsa (nonviolence) and its ecological importance. Since her creation of the Living Ahimsa Foundation in 2001, Mother Maya has reached out to the global community to “transform violence, disease and despair into harmony, wellness and joy.”

Learn more at www.mypeacevow.org

Living Ahimsa World Tour