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Parliament Statement Reaffirms Nonviolence on Behalf of Dr. Arun Gandhi in Wake of Fort Hood Shooting

“The sad shooting incident in Fort Hood, Texas, is yet another example of how the culture of violence is destroying our humanity,” the Parliament of Religions said in a statement on behalf of Board Trustee Dr. Arun Manilal Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi warned the nations of the world to find civilized ways of resolving disputes or face extinction.

“Sending young women and men into combat to kill and destroy men, women and children and then expect soldiers to assimilate peacefully in their own societies is to say the least insensitive,” according to the statement.

The Parliament of Religions, an international interfaith organization based in Chicago, works to bring peace, understanding and respect among the peoples of the world.

The first Parliament was held in Chicago in 1893. In modern times Parliaments were held in Chicago, Cape Town, Barcelona, and Melbourne.

The Parliament is wedded to the philosophy of nonviolence in thought, word, and deed.

The Parliament extends its sympathy to the bereaved families and hopes that the United States, the only super power, will eventually lead the world in civilized moral behavior.

Parliament United Nations Task Force Forms to Enhance Relations, MDGs

Flags flying high at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
Credit: UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is dedicating a new task force to move forward since becoming a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) associated to the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN-DPI) in late 2013.

The newly-formed The United Nations Task Force of the Parliament is now meeting to explore ways that the Parliament can collaborate with other NGOs to carry forward its mission, and to more fully integrate the Millennium Development Goals into its work overall.

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Board of Trustees, is encouraged by the potential of this new Parliament initiative stating,

 

The Parliament has high expectation in developing a deeper relationship with the United Nations since it is one of the important guiding institutions for humanity. The Parliament’s UN Task Force is just a first step in the right direction. We are also looking forward to working with other interfaith organizations at the UN to enhance our desire to have better Intra-Interfaith cooperation.

 

Excited for the work ahead, the Parliament announces those comprising the United Nations Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions are:

Dr. Kusumita Pedersen: Co-Chair of the Parliament UN Task Force, Board Trustee
Rev. Dr. Anne Benvenuti: Co-Chair of the Parliament UN Task Force, Parliament Representative to the United Nations, Board Trustee
Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski: Parliament Representative to the United Nations, Board Trustee
Rev. Phyllis Curott: Parliament Representative to the United Nations, Board Trustee
Ms. Sara Rahim: Parliament Youth Representative to the United Nations, St. Louis University Student
Mr. Tahil Sharma: Parliament Youth Representative to the United Nations, University of LaVerne Student
Dr. Aisha al-Adawiya: Founder and Chair of Women in Islam
Mr. Naresh Jain, Parliament Trustee Emeritus, Founding Member of Educare
Ms. Kay Lindahl, Parliament Ambassador Advisory Council Member
Dr. Mary Nelson (Ex-Officio), Parliament Executive Director
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid (Ex-Officio), Chair of the Board of Trustees, Parliament of the World’s Religions

Dr. Kusumita Pedersen reflects that “between all its members, this task force has many years of varied experience of work in the NGO world connected to the UN.”

The Parliament supports the DPI in its aim of widening public knowledge of the UN, so watch this space for items about the UN and its multi-faceted work, and look forward to getting to know each of the Parliament Task Force members in the months ahead through profiles in our newsletter, features on Facebook, and activity reports.

Most recently, the Parliament Women’s Task Force was co-host of a parallel event to the 58th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women which was held March 3 – 15. On March 11,the gathering in New York City joined spirits world-wide for Remembering the Sacred Heart of Your Activism: An Evening of Prayer, Reflection and Inspiration convened by organizers Women of Spirit and Faith, Gather the Women Global Matrix, Millionth Circle, We Are Enough and United Religions Initiative, and more.

The Parliament as always shares a deep commitment to cooperation and commitment toward a just, peaceful, and sustainable world, and is gearing to offer many more opportunities to enhance work on these critical goals as 2014 continues.

Parliament Women’s Task Force Announces Tibet House Partnership Presenting Multi-Religious Speaker Series

The Parliament of the World’s Religions Women’s Task Force is excited to announce its participation in the Multi-Religious Speakers Series on the Sacred Feminine and the Vital Nexus of Religion and Women’s Issues organized in partnership with the highly esteemed Tibet House in New York City.

Program speakers featured in the series will be accessible to women around the world through the Parliament Webinar Series later in 2014.

The series will premiere with Ukranian spiritual teacher Nadia Reznikov hosting an advanced Tantric and Shamanic workshop for women at Tibet House April 4 and 11.

More information on the Tibet House schedule and how to register for the premiere event is available here. 

Nadia Reznikova

Nadiia Reznikova or Nabhasvati (“Shining”) is an extraordinary spiritual practitioner and teacher from the Ukraine who is making her first appearance in the United States at Tibet House. She has developed a system of tantric, shamanic, and psychotherapeutic practices for women which can produce immediate and dramatic improvements in emotional balance, joy, relationships, physical health, and inner and outer beauty. The practices are designed to naturally and powerfully elevate mood and energy state, enabling even new students to manifest desired changes within, as well as in their relationships and environment. These simple, daily practices have been proven effective tools of spiritual transformation for women of all walks of life and in all areas of life. Her shakti energy has been found to be directly transformative by many, and at the same time Nadiia teaches daily practices which may be done by students on their own.

Celebrating Compassionate City Council Resolutions Passing in Atlanta


The Parliament wishes to share congratulations on the unanimous resolution voted by the City Council of Atlanta, which became official on February 12, 2014, declaring:

“…BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT THE CITY OF ATLANTA IS DESIGNATED A COMPASSIONATE CITY.”

This encouraging progress for the Charter for Compassion comes this week from the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate partners in Atlanta, championed by by Chair Emeritus Rev. Bob Thompson and a collective of three major interfaith organizations in the greater Atlanta area.

After launching the Compassionate Atlanta campaign to create a compassionate circle of cities February 2 at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center, the Atlanta City Council passed the following resolution, and is encouraging surrounding municipalities to follow suit.

The principles for the Charter for Compassion stem from the very elements of the Golden Rule, which is endorsed through the world’s traditions in the Initial Declaration Toward a Global Ethic drafted in collaboration by the planners of the 1993 Centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago and the daring German Theologian, Hans Kung.

Seeing the progress of the Charter sway governments and transforming global society city by city is a sign of a changing world. It is of the utmost importance for all invested peacemakers to capitalize this spirit in the work to heal hate and advance a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

Congratulations to the city of Atlanta and each campaigning locality being bold, brave, and visionary.

We salute you!

 

 

 

Greed: How Can Religions Address the Deepening Spiritual Crisis of Our Time?

 

Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, President of SCUPE and Trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions speaks prophetically on the dangers of greed and the way spirituality can address these challenges.

The following is a synopsis of the Greeley lecture on peace and justice given by Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana at the Center for the Study of World Religions of Harvard University on February 3, 2014. This lecture is a precursor to SCUPE’s Congress on Urban Ministry (June 23-26, DePaul University, Chicago) which will address the theme: Together, Building a Just Economy. Rev. Dr. Premawardhana is President of the Seminary Consortium of Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE) , and a Board Trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions

The unimaginable level of income inequality has become a serious public conversation and scholarly inquiry. President Obama has addressed it several times over the past couple of months, including in the recent State of the Union speech. The week before that, when some 2,500 participants from business, government, academia and civil society convened in Davos, they considered the Global Risks 2014 report which points out that this massive income gap is the risk that is most likely to cause serious damage to the global economy in the coming decade.

Immediately prior to the Davos meeting, Oxfam, the international organization that addresses issues of hunger, poverty and economic justice around the world, in its report said that the world’s richest 85 people control the same amount of wealth as half the world’s population, over 3.5 billion people. In other words, each of the wealthiest 85 has access to the same resources as do about 42 million people. These are incredible numbers. In his message, Pope Francis urged those who gathered at Davos to promote inclusive prosperity. “I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it,” he said.

Last November Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, or the Joy of the Gospel, where he connects evangelization with a strong critique of consumerism. In a section entitled “No to the new idolatry of money,” he points to its causality: one cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, he says, “we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The worship of the ancient golden calf,” he goes on, “has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.” Human beings are reduced to one of their needs alone, he says, and that is “consumption.”

The rise of plutocracy, where the super-rich increasingly control the political and economic processes that leave everyone else out is already a serious global problem. My concern is that in the United States we may be reaching a tipping point where laws such as Citizens United and the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, both driven by big corporate interests, will tilt the playing field in favor of the super-rich for a long time to come. I believe that this is caused by greed, which – in both its individual and structural manifestations — is a spiritual problem.

This position was affirmed by an advisory body of the World Council of Churches, the Churches’ Commission on International Affairs (CCIA) when it met in March 2009, in Matanzas, Cuba, about six months after the global financial crisis hit. Its working group on Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation made three important affirmations.

First, they identified the cause of the crisis as unbridled greed, and declared it as a form of violence. “[T]he accumulation of wealth and the presence of poverty are not simply accidents but are often part of a strategy for some people to accumulate power and wealth at the expense of others. As such, greed is a form of violence which, on personal, community, national, regional and international levels isolates and injures us.”

In offering the provocative comment “greed is a form of violence,” the CCIA is connecting a word—violence— which it knows evokes a sense of strong condemnation, with a word that it believes is equally condemnable –greed, and advocating as robust a reflection on greed as the churches have had on violence. Indeed, churches, like other institutions caught up in systems of structural greed, find its reflection on greed muted, and its advocacy on behalf of economic justice compromised. A “greed is good” doctrine, popularized by the fictional character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street, and daily and forcefully asserted by some Fox News and CNBC commentators, as well as proponents of prosperity theologies, therefore goes largely unchallenged.

While many religions address greed, it is important to recognize that today’s structural greed is almost unprecedented. A new robust and self-critical reflection that pertains to today’s realities, by all religious authorities, I suggest, is therefore urgent.

The WCC has engaged such a process over the past several years. Its program Poverty, Wealth and Ecology has engaged economists and theologians in dialogues that have now resulted in a proposal for a new financial architecture released in Sao Paulo, in October 2012. One interesting feature of this is the inclusion of a “Greed Line.” If there’s a poverty line below which a person can be said to be in poverty, there must be greed line, above which a person can be said to be greedy!

Second, they recognized greed as a spiritual problem requiring spiritual interventions. Christianity alone does not have the resources to address this problem, they said, and affirmed that religions over centuries have deeply reflected on the question of greed and have significant wisdom to offer. They specifically identified Buddhism as having a sophisticated reflection on greed and its disastrous consequences, about the value of simplicity for the lay community of disciples, and renunciation and voluntary poverty for the monastic community.

Affirming the value of having its internal reflections lead to interreligious engagement, the WCC together with the Lutheran World Federation convened a Buddhist-Christian consultation in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 2010. Buddhists from several countries and a variety of traditions engaged with Christians from a variety of traditions in a consultation entitled “Buddhists and Christians engaging structural greed.”[1] The resulting statement, “A Buddhist-Christian Common Word on Structural Greed” has helped to move Christian and Buddhist communities to deeper common reflection and action.

Third, it identifies the need to listen to the voices of the poor. “We acknowledge that in our various positions of leadership we are not always well-placed to hear the voice of the oppressed, of indigenous people, of women, of the disabled, of refugees and displaced people, of the poor and of the most silenced among us.” We who gather around theological tables, religious leaders and scholars, because of our social standing as educated, middle class elite, do not have access to the conversations that are going on among those who are poor in our communities.

This is a difficult but critical question. Prof. Harvey Cox of Harvard University, in a 1980 Christian Century article entitled “Theology: What Is It? Who Does It? How Is It Done?” addressed this question. The elitism is understandable, says Cox, given that the minimal conditions for doing theology include the ability to read and write, familiarity with the received tradition of concepts and categories, sufficient leisure to reflect on these, and the power to get one’s ideas published or otherwise heard. Are theologians prepared to take the next step, he asks, beyond the self-critical awareness we now have, for example, of how the rhetorical conventions and cultural symbols of any period shape even its most original theology, to a recognition of how the pervasive ideology of the dominant class influences the theology it produces?

So, how do you dialogue with those who are poor? One of my mentors, Aloysius Pieris, offers us an insight from his Sri Lankan context. In Asian Theology of Liberation [2]  he insists that an authentic Sri Lankan theology must undergo a double baptism, in the Jordan of its religious diversity, and the cross of its grinding poverty. These two axes of religious diversity and poverty are basic facts of the Sri Lankan context. Dialogue, he says, is more than an academic exercise done in religious seminars organized and financed by western agencies, by people who do not have their feet on the ground. It is not an abstract concern, but a daily existential experience; never merely an intellectual exercise, it is a moral commitment. Pieris’ analysis suggests that if we want to engage in dialogue we need to incarnate ourselves in the context. Not only does it require a double baptism of immersion, it requires us to engage core-to-core with the other religious partners.

The question, however, is even more complex. There is plenty of dialogue that goes on in poor communities. Poor Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and those of other religions often live in the same communities, share each other’s concerns and needs, and reflect with each other about their fortunes and misfortunes and the ultimate meanings of day to day events. The difficulty for us middle class theologians and dialogicians is that we have no access to that conversation. Many difficulties, including those of communication and building trust become serious obstacles when we try to listen to that dialogue.

So, is there any hope for theology or interreligious dialogue? According to Pieris, there is no alternative but to engage in voluntary poverty, which for religious people, he reminds us, is a positive value. We must struggle against forced poverty, but voluntary poverty is a spiritual calling we must embrace. Some of the greatest saints and revered gurus in religious traditions, he reminds us, were people who renounced worldly comforts and pleasures. Some entered the monastic life, others such as Gandhi, became engaged in issues of social justice.

For those of us in religious leadership or theological academia, who assumed that theology can be done in the comfort of the seminary and its library, this is a problem. Indeed, for most of us, whose perceptions are colored by the dominant economic ethos, and where the desire to reach higher in the economic ladder is the positive value, voluntary poverty does not make sense. Therefore, Pieris asserts that it is simply not possible for people with such a middle class mindset to really understand and appreciate those who are poor, and recommends that those who engage in the disciplines of theology and of interreligious dialogue undergo a conversion, and undertake the baptism of voluntary poverty themselves.

This is what SCUPE does. We put our students into the streets of the city, to its local communities, to areas of concentrated poverty, where we teach our students to listen to the questions, struggles and stories of pain and laughter. We bring those questions together, subject them to deeper analysis, and then ask what scripture and tradition have to say about these questions. Indeed, in the margins our students have seen dialogue burst into argument, controversy and creativity. There, it never stays a mere dialogue, but moves quickly to action. At the margins people are conscientized, they strategize, organize and move in to light a fire under their leaders. Indeed, when religious or political leaders do not have the courage to do the right thing, it is the organized people at the grassroots who are able to hold them accountable.

A useful hermeneutical key to this conundrum was offered in November 2013, at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. It’s Commission on World Mission and Evangelism issued a new statement on mission entitled Together Towards Life, which turned all previous understandings of mission on its head. “Mission from the margins invites the church to reimagine mission as a vocation from God’s Spirit who works for a world where fullness of life is available to all,” it declared. In other words, mission is not to those who are a poor as we always thought, rather, mission is from those who are poor and marginalized to those at the
privileged center.

This is a profound statement. Those of us at the privileged center, the theologians, the religious leaders, the pastors and teachers, the middle class elite, are the very ones that need to be missionized. It says to us powerfully that those who are hungry today have something important to teach us about economic justice, about life and its meaning, and about the importance of sharing and community. Those who are working two or three jobs at minimum wage and have kids to take care of at home also have something important to teach us about faith, because at the end of the day they still have strength left to say their evening prayers with the kids. Those who are suffering climate catastrophes, such as the recent one in the Philippines have something important to teach us about climate justice and about life’s fragility and resilience. When we are able to deeply comprehend that, we will discover that our questions are different, our answers are different, and more than anything else, our attitude towards life and our lifestyle will be different.

What happened in 2008 was a result of unbridled structural greed. It was violence that was perpetrated against massive numbers of people around the world. But the religious communities’ voice was muted. We were conflicted because we too participate in that structural greed. Given today’s context it is critical that the religious communities’ voices be powerful and resilient. But in order for that to be so, we must allow those in the margins to teach us, missionize us, and indeed, convert us.

The Rev. Dr. Shanta D. Premawardhana is President of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education in Chicago. Originally from Sri Lanka, he was most recently the director for the Program Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation at the World Council of Churches (WCC), a worldwide fellowship of 349 Protestant and Orthodox churches based in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to moving to Geneva, Premawardhana served as the Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations at the National Council of Churches of Christ, based in New York.

[1] Martin Sinaga (ed.) A Common Word: Buddhists and Christians Engage Structural Greed (Lutheran University Press, 2012)

[2] Aloysius Pieris, Asian Theology of Liberation (T&T Clark, 1988, 86)

 

Golden Rule Meets Beloved Community at Heart of Compassionate Atlanta Inaugural Celebration

Compassionate Atlanta kicks off in beloved community on Feb. 2 at the Carter Center.

Winding down from World Interfaith Harmony week would be a backwards way of saying it.  For event organizers like the Compassionate Cities campaigners in Atlanta, the work is only just beginning.

This is true of Rev. Bob Thompson, Board Chair Emeritus of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, who is now championing a metro-wide effort to bring the Charter for Compassion to life in Atlanta. The Compassionate Atlanta kickoff event was held at the Carter Center on February 2 with co-sponsorship of the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate campaign, and as a participating entity of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week observance. Incidentally coinciding with the beginning of Black History Month in the United States, the Compassionate Atlanta launch embodies the  beloved community vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By launching the campaign, Rev. Thompson is primed to share how a Compassionate city campaign works, and what the Charter means to Atlanta. In a recent conversation with the Parliament, Thompson explains how Atlanta pulls interfaith and interracial harmony under the same umbrella, and why partners like the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate campaign and other common causes can find a local focus to live out the Charter.

Rev. Bob Thompson kicks off with Compassionate Atlanta Feb. at the Carter Center.

Parliament:  Before we talk about the Charter, what can you share from your favorite memories of your time on the Parliament board?

Rev. Thompson: I cherish so many luminous memories from my tenure. From the Parliament in Cape Town to leading a small group of trustees to meet with the Dalai Lama—these and many significant encounters linger in my memory.  But probably the most significant recollection  occurred after 9/11 when we hosted a large interfaith gathering in a Chicago-area mosque.  Following that gathering many of us in the Chicago interfaith community literally stood with our Muslim sisters and brothers outside of Chicago-area mosques for a number of subsequent days as a statement of our solidarity.

 

Parliament: How does the Charter for Compassion relate to its offspring movements, like Compassionate Action International, the Compassion Games, and Compassionate City campaigns?

Rev. Thompson: The Charter For Compassion was first articulated by Karen Armstrong in her “Make A Wish” TED talk in 2008.  Her wish was granted and the Charter For Compassion was subsequently drafted by a “Council of Conscience,” consisting of interfaith global religious and spiritual leaders. The Charter is the blueprint for the International Campaign for  Compassionate Cities and Compassion Games which serve as concrete expressions of the Charter for Compassion.

Parliament: What does it mean for a city to create a Compassion Campaign?

Rev. Thompson: Every city campaign reflects local capacities.  But each and every city campaign is rooted in the Charter For Compassion.  However we organize in our cities, the message is the same, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Parliament: How have municipal leaders taken to the Charter? Do governmental entities agree to change their practices to promote Compassion?

Rev. Thompson: When a city government declares itself a “compassionate city” it issues a proclamation that embraces the Charter for Compassion while working together with its citizens to develop a compassionate action plan that reflects the vision and capacities of that municipality. These efforts ultimately have the power of changing the public conversation and consciousness.

A Proclamation in honor of Compassionate Atlanta was signed by the Atlanta City Council for the kickoff celebration.

Parliament:  What new and different outcomes can a city embarking upon a Compassionate Cities campaign expect, or hope to see happen?

Rev. Thompson: I live by the mantra, “communities consist of conversations. We change our communities by changing our conversations.” We learned from the Civil Rights movement and more recently from LGBT movement, when the conversation changes, communities inevitably change. I believe that compassion and compassionate action are conversation changers that are powerful enough to transform the communities in which we live.

Parliament: Your kickoff event attracted a large crowd of multi-religious and racially diverse faith leaders at the Carter Center in Atlanta over the Feb. 2 -3 weekend. How does the interracial network of faith leaders collaborate in Atlanta as compared to what you saw in Chicago? Moreover have you learned anything organizing in Atlanta which could help aspiring community leaders advance the beloved community in racially segregated cities (like Chicago)?

Rev. Thompson:The diverse Atlanta interfaith community has been the driver of the Compassionate Atlanta campaign.  As an aside, when we were organizing to host the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) in the summer of 2012, I looked around at members of our organizing team and realized I was the only white man on the committee of 12.  That was a very different experience than I had while doing interfaith engagement in Chicago.

Interfaith advances the Beloved Community through the Charter for Compassion in Atlanta at their kickoff event in February 2014.

The interracially diverse interfaith community in Atlanta reflects in part, the cultural complexity of Southern history.  This diversity was also evident at our Compassionate Atlanta launch at the Carter Center. It has been my experience that the Atlanta interfaith community is intentional about living out the vision of the Beloved Community as Dr. King so eloquently articulated. In terms of residency, most of our cities are racially segregated, Atlanta included.  But if we become conscious and intentional about WHO we engage in our conversations—we can make the Beloved Community real in terms of everyday life.  It all begins with being conscious and intentional and culminates in developing relationships that change how we see ourselves and each other.

Parliament: What happens next for the Compassionate Atlanta campaign?

Rev. Thompson: The purpose of our February 2nd Compassionate Atlanta gathering at the Carter Center was to call all citizens in metro Atlanta to concrete actions that invite cities in the metro area to:

  • 1. Declare their city as a Compassionate City
  • 2. Invite organizations to sign on as Charter Partners or
  • 3. Initiate conversations in our communities around the Charter for Compassion and the question of “what does compassion ask of us?”

We plan to gather again at the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College on April 3rd for a Compassion Celebration to report back on what we have done and learned in this two month compassion experiment.

Parliament: The Faiths Against Hate campaign of the Parliament is a co-sponsor of Compassionate Atlanta. How can (and why should) an organization become a co-sponsor?

Rev. Thompson: The Faiths Against Hate Campaign is a very important first step! When CPWR Chair Malik Mujahid called me last April asking if we could organize a Faiths Against Hate event in Atlanta, my immediate response was “Yes!”  Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we needed to mobilize people around something concrete and positive.  I checked out the compassionate cities movement and asked Malik if we could use this as our organizing strategy.  He was very enthusiastic and supportive.  So the Parliament has helped to make the Faiths Against Hate campaign real in Atlanta through the Compassionate Cities movement. Each and every locality must find their own way to give expression to the Faiths Against Hate initiative.  Finally, we are all in this together.  If we want to bring change to our world we must think globally and act locally.  This is what we have done in Atlanta.

Parliament: Are there any lessons you picked up during your time leading the Parliament that have contributed to how you inspire interfaith and compassion now?

Rev. Thompson: The most important lesson I learned in my role as Parliament Chair was that interfaith dialogue and engagement empowers us to understand that our differences present us with an opportunity to go deeper.  Beneath our differences we share a common humanity. It is this vision of our deep unity amidst our diversity that gives me hope and keeps me doing the work I continue to do.

Rev. Robert V. Thompson - Chair Emeritus. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bob Thompson graduated from Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (Graduate Theological Union) and was ordained an American Baptist minister in 1973. He served American Baptist Churches in Kansas, Ohio, and for 30 years, as Senior Minister of the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Illinois. He retired in November of 2010. During the 1980′s Thompson became an activist pastor focusing on issues such as homelessness, racial reconciliation and advocacy for LGBT rights. He is recognized as Minister Emeritus of the Lake Street Church and Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Over the years he has contributed articles to periodicals including The Christian Century, The Chicago Tribune (op-ed), Sound Vision (a Muslim outlet), and others. He is the author of A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks (CopperHouse, 2007) and a contributor to the book for preachers, Feasting On the Word, Westminster John Knox Press.

Upon retirement he moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he is actively engaged in the Atlanta interfaith community.

 

Interfaith Young Adult Challenge Now Accepting North America-Based Applicants | Deadline To Compete For Parliament UN Delegate Status Soon

Last year’s speech delivered to the United Nations General Assembly on the state of educational inequality around the world brought Malala Yousafzai even closer to the hearts of global citizens, as many youth in the world’s most democratic nations were shaken to realize the urgent needs for revolutionizing change is in many different regions of the world. As United Nations initiatives act to diminish the disparities which exist, we count on them to make real human rights status quo for all.  As the Parliament steps into the NGO community at the United Nations, we are ready to share and expand our platform with the emerging leaders of today who will live out the vision of a just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Because Malala is busy, the Parliament is asking young adults possessing the poise and guts necessary to stand up for this vision. Parliament Delegates to the United Nations will be believers in the principles of a global ethic, who aspire to working across faith-based and secular lines to achieve positive social change. These interfaith savvy young adults must be between the ages of 18 – 24, living in the North America. Applications should be received by February 12, 2014.

How to Apply to the 2014 Interfaith Young Adult Challenge 

A contest to become a Youth Representative of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions at the United Nations

Is it your dream to become a diplomat? Do you have both the poise and guts necessary to stand up for peace, justice, and sustainability in our world? Do you believe in the principles of a global ethic? Do you believe that faith-based and secular partnerships can achieve positive social change?

If this sounds like you, an interfaith savvy young adult between the ages of 18 – 24, living in the North America, The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions would like to hear from YOU.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, the global organization which traces its roots back to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions and the birth of the modern interfaith movement, invites you to apply for our most elite young adult opportunity yet.

Two young adults will be selected to become the 2014 Parliament of the World’s Religions Youth Delegates at the United Nations through the United Nations Department of Public Information NGO body.

This contest is open to all young adults living in the North America aged 18 through 24.*

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is a member-NGO of the United Nations Department of Public Information, which represents over 1,500 NGOs at the United Nations. The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions retains access to open sessions of the United Nations (such as the one where Malala Yousafzai blew the minds of every world leader in her 2013 speech on the human rights of women and girls to be educated safely and equally), in addition to weekly briefings for the NGO community of the UN DPI,  general-access observer groundspasses, and an invitation to attend an annual NGO conference at the United Nations slated to be held summer 2014.

Selected delegates will be required to:

  • Connect with the Parliament via Skype or in person for one-hour orientation on our United Nations goals.

  • Visit the United Nations Headquarters in New York City at least once in 2014

  • Report to the Parliament on your experience

Selected delegates will self-finance their travel-related expenses to attend the United Nations  in New York City, but will receive counsel and fundraising support from the Parliament of the World’s Religions, as well as opportunities to apply for Parliament sponsorship for first time United Nations visit.

Parliament of the World’s Religions Youth Delegates to the United Nations (DPI-NGOs) can have:

To Apply:

Visit the website of the Parliament (www.parliamentofreligions.org) and familiarize yourself with the Parliament mission, history, and programs, as well as study up on our “Resources” by reading the introductions to An Initial Declaration Towards a  Global Ethic, and the A Call to Our Guiding Institutions.

Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/parliamentofreligions and become familiar with our social content and worldview.

Your application will include:

  • your resume listing all educational and leadership experience, your full name, date of birth, and residential address

  • a cover letter

  • in 750 words or less, a reflection answering the following questions:

  1. After learning more about the Parliament of the World’s Religions, why do you want to represent this organization at the United Nations in 2014? How do you see this experience benefiting your future, and advancing the Parliament mission?

  1. What is your experience/interest in the United Nations, interfaith, and/or international relations?

  • A letter of support from a non-related reference of your choosing.

Optional Alternative: Send us your resume/cover letter, and a link to a video, 5 minutes maximum, answering to the application questions. Outstanding finalists may see their video shared on our Parliament of the World’s Religions Facebook page.  Video and print applications will receive equal consideration by the Parliament selection committee.

 Applications must be e-mailed by 11:59 p.m. Central Standard time on Wednesday, February 12 to:

 

 stephen@parliamentofreligions.org and molly@parliamentofreligions.org with the subject “My Interfaith Young Adult Challenge Application”

Finalists will be interviewed via Skype or phone.

Winners will be notified by phone with offer of Youth Representative credentials to the United Nations Department of Public Information.  

Winning delegates will be announced on February 18.

*Family members of Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions staff and Board of Trustees are not eligible for this competition. Applicants must be aged 18 by May 1, 2014, and must not turn 25 before November 30, 2014.

DOWNLOAD PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD’s RELIGIONS INTERFAITH YOUNG ADULT CHALLENGE UNITED NATIONS DELEGATE CONTEST INFORMATION PACKET.

North American Interfaith Network Issues Save The Date for Detroit Connect

The Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit is hosting this year’s NAIN conference Sunday, August 10 through Wednesday August 13 at Michigan’s Wayne State University. Connect 2014 will focus on a theme of Bridging Borders and Boundaries, and is now open for early bird registration.

Dr. Mary Nelson, the Parliament’s executive director, says she is grateful that there are opportunities like NAIN where the Interfaith community is strengthened. “The Parliament seeks to better connect with other interfaith groups and is happy to encourage this important relationship as we all work together to better achieve a peaceful, just, and sustainable world.”

Parliament representatives at the 2013 Toronto event enjoyed celebrating 25 years of NAIN, and learning the history of the 1993 Connect held in conjunction with the centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, from attendees who were in attendance for both, and was as an animating moment for the interfaith community as it began to globalize.

More information will be shared as it becomes available. For now, download NAIN Connect 2014 official Save the Date here. 

 

Parliament Asks Young Adults: Want to Become a Delegate to the United Nations? CONTEST STARTS IMMEDIATELY!

2014 Interfaith Young Adult Challenge 

A contest to become a Youth Representative of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions at the United Nations

Is it your dream to become a diplomat? Do you have both the poise and guts necessary to stand up for peace, justice, and sustainability in our world? Do you believe in the principles of a global ethic? Do you believe that faith-based and secular partnerships can achieve positive social change?

If this sounds like you, an interfaith savvy young adult between the ages of 18 – 24, living in the United States, The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions would like to hear from YOU.

On January 24, 2014, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, the global organization which traces its roots back to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions and the birth of the modern interfaith movement, invites you to apply for our most elite young adult opportunity yet.

Two young adults will be selected to become the 2014 Parliament of the World’s Religions Youth Delegates at the United Nations through the United Nations Department of Public Information NGO body.

This contest is open to all young adults living in the United States aged 18 through 24.*

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is a member-NGO of the United Nations Department of Public Information, which represents over 1,500 NGOs at the United Nations. The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions retains access to open sessions of the United Nations (such as the one where Malala Yousafzai blew the minds of every world leader in her 2013 speech on the human rights of women and girls to be educated safely and equally), in addition to weekly briefings for the NGO community of the UN DPI,  general-access observer groundspasses, and an invitation to attend an annual NGO conference at the United Nations slated to be held summer 2014.

Selected delegates will be required to:

  • Connect with the Parliament via Skype or in person for one-hour orientation on our United Nations goals.

  • Visit the United Nations Headquarters in New York City at least once in 2014

  • Report to the Parliament on your experience

Selected delegates will self-finance their travel-related expenses to attend the United Nations  in New York City, but will receive counsel and fundraising support from the Parliament of the World’s Religions, as well as opportunities to apply for Parliament sponsorship for first time United Nations visit.

Parliament of the World’s Religions Youth Delegates to the United Nations (DPI-NGOs) can have:

To Apply:

Visit the website of the Parliament (www.parliamentofreligions.org) and familiarize yourself with the Parliament mission, history, and programs, as well as study up on our “Resources” by reading the introductions to An Initial Declaration Towards a  Global Ethic, and the A Call to Our Guiding Institutions.

Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/parliamentofreligions and become familiar with our social content and worldview.

Your application will include:

  • your resume listing all educational and leadership experience, your full name, date of birth, and residential address

  • a cover letter

  • in 750 words or less, a reflection answering the following questions:

  1. After learning more about the Parliament of the World’s Religions, why do you want to represent this organization at the United Nations in 2014? How do you see this experience benefiting your future, and advancing the Parliament mission?

  1. What is your experience/interest in the United Nations, interfaith, and/or international relations?

  • A letter of support from a non-related reference of your choosing.

Optional Alternative: Send us your resume/cover letter, and a link to a video, 5 minutes maximum, answering to the application questions. Outstanding finalists may see their video shared on our Parliament of the World’s Religions Facebook page.  Video and print applications will receive equal consideration by the Parliament selection committee.

 Applications must be e-mailed by 11:59 p.m. Central Standard time on Wednesday, February 12 to:

 

 stephen@parliamentofreligions.org and molly@parliamentofreligions.org with the subject “My Interfaith Young Adult Challenge Application”

Finalists will be interviewed via Skype or phone.

Winners will be notified by phone with offer of Youth Representative credentials to the United Nations Department of Public Information.  

Winning delegates will be announced on February 18.

*Family members of Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions staff and Board of Trustees are not eligible for this competition. Applicants must be aged 18 by May 1, 2014, and must not turn 25 before November 30, 2014.

DOWNLOAD PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD’s RELIGIONS INTERFAITH YOUNG ADULT CHALLENGE UNITED NATIONS DELEGATE CONTEST INFORMATION PACKET.

Inviting You to a Collection of Chicago’s Sacred Spaces

Suzanne Morgan, Sacred Spaces Ambassador of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is exhibiting her architectural models at Fourth Presbyterian Church.

Suzanne Morgan, founder of Sacred Space International, and Sacred Space Ambassador for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions would like to invite you to join us at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church for an exhibition of her growing architectural model collection, featured in the Loggia Space from now until March 3, 2014.

Featured congregations are:

  • Unity Temple
  • St. Benedict the African
  • Perlman Sanctuary at North Shore Congregation Israel
  • The Assumption Greek Orthodox Church
  • First Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran
  • Holy Family Church

Fourth Church Hours:

Monday to Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. |Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. | Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

126 E. Chestnut Street (just west of Michigan Ave.) | Chicago, IL | 60611.2014 | 312.787.4570

Additionally, taking place on February 14th, 2014, Fourth Presbyterian Church will be hosting Suzanne Morgan to give a talk detailing both the collection and the culture and history behind each of the featured congregations.

Suzanne Morgan Presents:

Congregations Seen Through Their Sacred Spaces: A Collection of Chicagoland’s Religious Architecture

Located at:

Fourth Presbyterian Church, Gratz Center, Room 4G

Schedule

February 14, 2014

  • 6:00 – 6:30 Attendee Check-In
  • 6:30 – 7:30 Suzanne Morgan
  • 7:30 – 8:30 Social Hour

This program has a registration fee of $10 required in advance. To register, contact Anne Ellis (312.573.3369). Registration will not be available at the door.