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As the World Prays for Peace, Milwaukee Interfaith Clergy Offer Strong Spiritual Leadership

Widely shared image of two boys united by interfaith harmony and friendship symbolizing a groundswell cry for peace as violence and war batter the Gaza strip in July 2014.

Originally appeared in Milwaukee Journal Sentinal July 17, 2014, as reported by Annysa Johnson. 

More than 100 faithful from a variety of religious traditions gathered at Milwaukee’s All Saints Cathedral on Wednesday to pray for peace in the Middle East, a response to the escalating hostilities in Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Worshippers sang “Donna Nobis Pacem,” or “Grant us Peace” in Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. And Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Unitarian clergy offered their prayers and insights into what it means to work for and live in peace.

“It was very touching and profound,” said an emotional Mary Kelly of Milwaukee, who is Catholic. “There is just such a feeling of helplessness,” around the issues in the Middle East, she said.

“We have such a long way to go — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Milwaukee. I’m just happy that this congregation saw the need to pull us all together.

The service was organized by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, which works to find common ground among religious traditions. Like other flashpoints in the Middle East, the Gaza crisis has heightened tensions in Milwaukee’s Jewish and Muslim communities, which tend to view the conflict from different perspectives.

Here are excerpts from the prayers offered Wednesday, in the order they were spoken:

The Very Rev. Kevin Carroll, dean of All Saints Cathedral: “We can pray for peace in far off lands. But our prayers will ring hollow if we ourselves fail to model what peace looks like — in our homes, in our families, in our relationships and in our communities. …Peace starts with prayer. But it also starts right here, right now, with all of us sitting in this room.

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hying, Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Loving and peaceful God, help us to see ourselves and each other as you see us, beautiful; created in your image; open to love; hearts that are made for peace and good will, sacrifice and generosity. … Help us to love as you love, to forgive as you forgive, to be an extension of your mercy and your peace in this world, and to be signs of your kingdom in our midst.

The Rev. Craig M. Howard, Presbytery of Milwaukee: Deliver us from the hardness of heart that keeps us locked in violent confrontation with one another. Give to us your spirit of love so that we may show compassion. Teach us to walk in humility so we might live in peace with our sisters and brothers. And most of all, God, change our hearts.

Zulfiqar Ali ShahIslamic Society of Milwaukee: Almighty God …we are ruthlessly subjugating, terrorizing and killing each other based upon narrow identities. Guide us to stop this needless violence, terror, aggression, cold blooded murders and destruction. … We beseech you to bring an end to this needless bloodbath and wanton destruction.

Rabbi Ronald Shapiro, Congregation Shalom: Teach us to work for the welfare of all people, to diminish the evil and pains that beset us. And to enlarge those virtues we know will bring dignity and peace to all the peoples of the earth. So bless our striving to make real the dream of peace among all humankind. May we put an end to the suffering we inflict upon one another and cherish the dignity of the soul that abides in each human being.

The Rev. Linda HansenUnitarian Universalists: We pray for the power to see that we are all connected … and that we ultimately help or harm ourselves in helping or harming one another. Out of this vision, may we have the will and the courage to work for a just and peaceful world in which every individual is treated with dignity.

The Rev. Stephen J. PolsterWisconsin Conference United Methodist Church: And so we pray as we gather here … that you will strengthen our resolve to give witness to the truths by the way we live. Give to us understanding that puts an end to strife, mercy that quenches hatred, forgiveness that overcomes vengeance. Impart all of us here and everywhere to live in your law of love.

Swarnjit Aroraof the Sikh community: We are children of one God. … Then how can we say one child is better than the other child. All children in your eyes Lord are sacred. … We pray for peace in the Middle East. Oh God … Give us strength to stand up for peace and non-violence in our world. … We pray for chardi kala, the well beating of each and every human being.

The Rev. Jean Dow, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church: Though we come from different places and express our faith in different ways, give us a common concern, that we may share our deep convictions as people of faith and continue to pray and work together side by side, hand in hand. And Let us pray without ceasing for peace first within our own minds hearts and spirits, so that each of us might also be instruments of your peace and bearers of reconciliation in this city, in our neighborhoods, in our families and in our faith communities.

Global Jews and Muslims Can ‘Choose Life’ Together Today Over Joint Fast

As conflict continues to batter civilians in the Gaza strip after a short ceasefire broke down overnight, Interfaith leaders of Judaism and Islam are calling the masses to stand side by side in prayer today, a joint day of fasting that falls on both religious calendars July 15.

Interfaith activists, please share this urgent call for peace. 

The Huffington Post is one of the outlets focusing on the parents. An article about Interfaith prayer for peace today reads, “Sanity must prevail. Inertia cannot take over,” wrote Robi Damelin, in a July 10 editorial in The Huffington Post. Damelin, who lost her son, David, to the conflict in 2002, concluded, “We must come out and demonstrate to the powers that be. Stop the violence. As part of the Parents Circle-Family Forum, Damelin meets with Palestinian and Israeli families who have all lost children in the conflict.”

  • The religious definitions of today’s fasting is explored in The Times of Israel article reporting more on the “Choose Life” movement promoting today’s peace demonstrations:

“The 17th of Tammuz, a fast day that commemorates the breach of Jerusalem’s walls before the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70, falls out on Tuesday. It’s the start of a three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av, a more well-known fast day that marks the destruction of the temple.

Tuesday is also the 18th day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast from dawn till sunset each day for the entire month.

The joint fast “is not a sixties anti-war thing,” said Shaul Judelman, one of the Choose Life organizers. ‘It’s coming from a religious place, which is tricky when rockets are falling. But our future seems to be here together, and no one’s going anywhere.” (Read more on The Times of Israel…)

Those in the United States wishing to join a public prayer demonstration and fast, seek opportunities like the following being organized in D.C. and Chicagoland:

In response, Jewish and Muslim clergy of the DC area are joining together as part of an international effort by religious leaders to pray for an end to the violence.  On Tuesday, July 15th the Jewish and Muslim calendars are united in a day of fast: the fast of 17 Tamuz, and the fast of Ramadan. For both traditions this is a day designated for soul-searching, an opportunity for people to take responsibility, and for self repair, communal purification, and repentance.

As we join together we hope to direct the consciousness of both peoples to this day as a “peak day” – a day in which each man and woman will be invited to take part, to fast in solidarity with the suffering, violence and pain of self and others, to ask how to end the cycle of bloodshed and draw a horizon of hope and vision.

Please join Maharat Ruth Friedman and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue, Rabbi Etan Mintz and Chava Evans of B’nai Israel Congregation, and Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center on Tuesday, July 15th at 5pm in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC to offer prayers for peace and comfort. Leaders and members of all faith communities are encouraged to attend.

Please contact Maharat Friedman at MaharatRuth@ostns.org or 847-722-8287 to add your congregation’s name to the list of co-sponsors.

  • JEWISH-MUSLIM FAST FOR PEACE, JULY 15 - Fountain Square, Evanston, IL 6:00pm

Friends – In response to the current violence in Israel/Palestine, Jews and Muslims in Chicago will join in a collective fast on Tuesday, July 15, when our two calendars converge:

The Fast of the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz (for the Jews this is a fast commemorating the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem before the Temple was destroyed) and the middle of the Fast of the Muslim Month of Ramadan.

Chicagoland Jews and Muslims will meet in Evanston, at Fountain Square (corner of Sherman and Davis, just steps from Davis CTA and Metra stations), at 6:00pm.

We will show empathy for each other’s pain and share in a collective prayer for peace, and a better future which our peoples deserve.

For both traditions, this is a day dedicated to taking an accounting of the soul, to taking responsibility, for correcting and purifying, to turning in repentance. The plan is to direct two peoples on this day to a kind of summit, during which everyone is invited to take part, to fast in identification with the suffering, the violence, the pain of one’s self and the other, to ask how we will break the cycle of violence and to create a vision of hope.

As one author (who lost his son in war) recently said: the situation is too desperate for us to drown ourselves in despair.

 

July 15th, 2014 at 9:03 am

The Parliament and URI Issue Joint #LoveAlert for #Kansas

Global Interfaith Movement Acts for Kansas on Holy Weekend

 

We, the global interfaith community, cherish the principle of shared humanity and champion the Golden Rule as the guiding principle of each of the world’s great spiritual and religious communities. We unite as neighbors in our call for harmony, compassion, and peaceful relationships everywhere.

Sunday’s tragic hate shootings in the Kansas City area urgently signal why interfaith cooperation must become stronger to ensure all people are exposed to the beautiful lessons we learn from each other in diverse communities.

We invite all people to join with the United Religions Initiative (URI) and the Parliament of the World’s Religions in coming together to amplify action for peace:

“The hearts and prayers of our interfaith and inter-cultural family go out to those affected by this terrible tragedy,” said the Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr., Executive Director of URI.  “Around the world, we affirm our promise to cultivate peace in the midst of difference, to promote enduring interfaith cooperation, and to show love in the face of hate.  May peace and healing find those shaken by this loss.”

Dr. Mary Nelson, Executive Director of the Parliament concurs, “in the face of violence and hate, we people of spirit and faith are challenged to proactively reach out in love and reconciliation.  Now is the time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

From Thursday April 17 through Sunday, April 20, we call for #LoveAlert messages to spread the goodness of interfaith cooperation around the world.

Ways to observe your solidarity include:  Fasting, lighting candles, and inviting your neighbors to your interfaith community events.

Use our tools to overcome hate! The Parliament’s  Faiths Against Hate webinars  train interfaith advocates and URI’s Talking Back to Hate campaign’s toolbox is full of effective best practices in a variety of materials.

Interfaith cooperation is happening; we as partners in the movement for peace affirm that deep interfaith relationships bring everyone closer together to overcome fear and embrace others as neighbors.

By bravely speaking out and acting together, we at the Parliament and URI invite all to work with us to correct injustice and make peace possible for all.

 

Mahavir Jayanti Jain Holiday Celebrates Historic Teachings of Non-violence and Pluralism

Mahavir Jayanti is a holiday celebrated by Jains (Jainism is an ancient Indian religion) to observe the birth of Tirthankar Mahavir. Tirthankar is a liberated soul who has achieved Nirvana. Tirthankar established a fourfold Sangh, or religious community. The Sangh consists of monks, nuns, Shravak (laymen) and Sharvika (laywomen). He was the last of the 24 Tirthankars of this time cycle.

Tirthankar Mahavir and Gautama Buddha were both born in the state of Bihar in India. Though they were contemplatives of their time, neither of them had met the other at any time during their life cycle. Nonetheless, they both observed the same philosophy of non-violence.

Mahavir was born to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishla. He was born in 615 BC. When Mahavir was in the womb, the kingdom experienced more happiness as farmers harvested the highest amount of quality crops, businessmen realized more profits, and the overall atmosphere was one of peace and joy that kept on increasing.

Mahavir renounced his throne and kingdom at the age of 30. For 12 ½ years he left his kingdom and did his penance. He fasted for many days. (Jains observe the fast without any solid or liquid food for 24 hours. They may drink boiled water or go even waterless.) He would meditate for days and nights. He slept only for forty-eight minutes during this a 24-hour time period. During his penance, he observed silence so he could contemplate and achieve enlightenment. He attained enlightenment at the age of 42 ½.

Mahavir gave five codes of conduct to reduce Karma. They are:

• To practice non-violence in thought, word, and actions.
• To seek and speak the truth.
• To behave honestly and never to take anything that does not belong to you, even if it is unclaimed by anyone.
• To practice restraint and chastity in thought, word, and actions.
• To practice non-acquisitiveness.

His main teachings were Ahimsa, Anekantvad, and Aprigraha, meaning “non-violence,” “pluralism,” and “non-attachment.” Mahavir said that there is life in every living being. You do not want to hurt others as they have souls just like you. If you hurt other people they too will hurt you, either in this life or the next life. The cycle would never stop unless you break it. This is your chance in this lifetime while you are born as an individual to stop the hate cycle. You should see the pure soul like yours in others and spread love and compassion.

Jains believe that Tirthankar Mahavir’s philosophy and practice ended his cycle of life and death. He achieved Nirvana at the age of 72. Since then, several enlightened souls have expounded the philosophy of Jainism. One such exalted soul was Shrimad Rajchandra. Jains believe that he was the last disciple of Tirthankar Mahavir during His time. Shrimad Rajchandra greatly influenced Mahatma Gandhi’s spiritual philosophy.

Mahatma Gandhi adapted the practice of non-violence in political struggle and strategy. He observed Satyagraha, championing human rights and practicing civil disobedience to oppose unjust government orders. Gandhi’s practice ended colonialism in India and achieved freedom after 200 years of British rule.

Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence impressed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He practiced Gandhi’s method non-violence and challenged racism in America. Nelson Mandela also achieved victory against apartheid in South Africa.

Mahavir Jayanti will be observed by Jains around the world on Sunday, April 13, by observing special ceremonies in Jain temples. In the early morning of Mahavir Jayanti, Jains give a ceremonial bath to the statue of Tirthankar Mahavir. There are cultural programs with music and dance for everyone to enjoy the birthday of Tirthankar Mahavir. There is also a feast for the visitors of the temple. They give donations to the poor and needy. In many places in India, Jains donate money to release animals from the slaughterhouse and put them in Panjrapol (the animal house) where they are looked after till their last day.

There are no Jain temples in Waco, Texas. The nearest Jain temple is in the Dallas area. The temple is open to anyone wanting to attend Mahavir Jayanti. You can get more information about their program at www.dfwjains.org.

Sources: www.jainworld.com; www.times of india.com; Wikipedia.

Kirit Daftary is a past president of JAINA (Federation of Jain Associations in North America). There are 67 Jain Centers and a population of over 150,000 Jains in North America. He is also a board member of Greater Waco Interfaith Council and a trustee and officer of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

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.

The Power of Women as Agents of Peace

Rosalee Laws

Via Rosalee Laws for Women’s History Month , Parliament of the World’s Religions Ambassador 

I have had the pleasure of witnessing many women and women’s groups involved at all stages of peace work, from prevention to resolution. When I define peace work I mean it in a broad sense, not just the absence of war, but living honorably, dying in peace, having basic human needs met, and post conflict resolutions.

Amid 39 active conflicts over the last 10 years, few women have actually been at the table of peace negotiations. Out of 585 peace treaties drafted over the last two decades, only 16 percent contain specific references to women. Furthermore, around the world 1 in 3 women are subject to “non peaceful” or violent situations, including sexual and physical abuses.

Since it is quite obvious that women are very affected by “non-peaceful” situations, and they are 50 percent of this world’s population, isn’t it quite obvious they are a critical voice in the building of peace?

Inequality in Leadership Roles

It is time for women to come out of the shadows at the podium of peace.

It goes without saying, men tend to dominate the formal roles in the current peace-building process. Male peacekeepers, male peace negotiators, male politicians, and male formal leaders all take the spotlight. Power is unequally distributed between men and women and the majority of women do not have a voice in any local or national decision making processes. Such inequalities cause formal peacebuilding activities and policies to suffer from insufficient understanding of the diverse communities in which they are representing. Not including women in decisions making processes towards peace often means that female concerns are not addressed. Experiences and insights of both men and women during conflict and peace need to be represented in order to encapsulate all dimensions for holistic solutions.

The landscape of women’s participation has experienced significant change mostly in the area of awareness. All of us, men and women alike, have gender roles firmly embedded within us. The more we all try to pretend they do not exist, the less conscious we are of our own behaviors that promote inequality. Discussion of these issues openly is a first step to dealing with them and getting more women involved in the process of peace.

Getting Out Of Our Own Way

An effective message by female peacemakers overcomes conflict by refusing to kill the child of another mother.

Many women’s groups that are advocating their participation are siloed in existence to their peers. Most of the groups that exist have great broad ideas with lack of tactical implementation skills. Many current women’s movements and formal policies do not have established mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the progress of their work. Even at the international level, it is very upsetting to see how programs and policies lack in operational guidance, program implementation, data monitoring and evaluation, knowledge and resources. There is also a huge gap in knowledge for most organizations on how to harness technology resources such as social media that have the influence to mobilize millions all over the world in minutes.

The Women’s Leadership Ambition Gap

A bigger part of the problem is not just allowing women to come to the table, it is that women often themselves de-value their role as peacebuilders. So many women, despite their amazing achievements, feel like impostors and do not necessarily recognize the important roles they can play in both building peace and as leaders. Women need to recognize that within themselves they have attributes, valuable insights, and experiences, that NO ONE else has. Women embody the maternal gifts as caregivers, focus on the family, and resolving violence without conflict. Women of faith, in particular, are well suited for participation in peace efforts. They transmit peace values over generations and are already promoting critical values to the world.

What Would Big Change Look Like?

Big changes would happen if we first, could ensure that women play a key role in the design and implementation of peacebuilding activities and give them a confidence to do so. Second, we need to support and strengthen the already established women’s organizations that are currently working in their peacebuilding efforts. Finally, systems need to be established for enforcing and monitoring all efforts on a global scale.Women have such untapped potential to be effective participants, key-decision makers and beneficiaries of peace.

They must unravel the potential that exists within themselves to create a more peaceful world. Discovering their own voices. Find the courage to step up. There is a place for all women at the podium for peace.

Rosalee Laws, Ambassador, Parliament of the World’s Religions

 

Rosalee Laws is the CEO of R.O.S.E. a company that offers online development programs to business owners and organizational leaders. A passion for interfaith work that stems over a decade, Ambassador for the Parliament of World Religions and Founder of “women leadership” on reddit and the invite only “women in leadership” group on Linkedin. Rosalee has had experience in over 29 industries some of which include, working with the Secretary General at Religions for Peace, with United Nations entities, Disney Films, and the Associated Press. You can find out more on rosaleelaws.com.

 

 

Resources / Supplementary Information

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) (S.2982, HR. 4594). Amnesty International Issue Brief No. 2. March 2010.

United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 1325 Women Peace and Security,” (2000).

Posa, Swanee Hunt and Cristina, “Women Waging Peace,” Foreign Policy, no. 124 (2001): 38-47.

Anju Chhetri, “Women’s Intervention in the Peace Processes,” Nepal Samacharpatra, August 29, 2006.

UNIFEM, “Securing the Peace: Guiding the International Community Towards Women’s Effective Participation Throughout Peace Processes,” edited by Camille Pampell Conaway Klara Banaszak, Anne Marie Goetz, Aina Iiyambo and Maha Muna (New York: UNIFEM, 2005),

United Nations, Women Peace and Security (2002)

Lisa Laplante, “Women as Political Participants: Psychosocial Postconflict Recovery in Peru,” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, v. 13 no. 3 (2007).

Jackie Kirk, “Promoting a Gender-Just Peace: The Roles of Women Teachers in Peacebuilding and Reconstruction,” Gender and Development 12, no. 3 (2004):

Madeline Storck , “The Role of Social Media in Political Mobilisation:a Case Study of the January 2011 Egyptian Uprising” 20 December 2011.

Report of the Secretary-General on Women’s Participation in Peacebuilding (A/65/354–S/2010/466)

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/audio/2014/feb/20/women-movements-force-for-change-podcast

Inviting you to Share Messages of Peace and Non-Violence in Chicago (Sharing Sacred Spaces)

Suzanne Morgan, Ambassador of Sacred Spaces of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions invites you to share with the Downtown Chicago faith communities of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Sharing Sacred Spaces project as they present an interreligious community building program entitled “Sharing Sacred Text: Messages of Peace and Non-Violence.” The gathering will be held on February 16 at the Buchanan Chapel of Fourth Presbyterian Church. 126 E. Chestnut Street, Chicago.

Interfaith Statements Mean Syrian Peace Pleas Unite

As Syria sits center in the world’s attention over the last weeks, watching the reaction of religious leaders to the prospect of military intervention has revived global anti-war sentiment.  Peaceful resolution creating consensus across government and religious lines demonstrates a growing cohesion of interfaith harmony building sturdy coalitions. Some of the latest motions of religious leaders call for:

  • Hundreds of people in Seattle were on hand Saturday night (September 7th)  to join a vigil and procession to call for peace in Syria.

Military interventions are unlikely be supported by many religious leaders as they have reached out and connected with various religious groups to promote interfaith, non-violence and also advocating non-military actions to promote peace in Syria. By supporting peaceful resolutions and interfaith harmony building coalitions, religions around the world can establish a ground for a non-violent campaign towards peace in Syria.

September 16th, 2013 at 1:57 am

Parliament Celebrating Anniversaries At ‘Living Out The Vision’

Dear Friends,

120 years ago leaders from religions east and west came together at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions with a vision for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. And the Interfaith Movement was birthed.

It took another 100 years to hold the second Parliament; that event broke down barriers, included groups formerly left out, and attendees committed to work towards a world without wars, hate, and discrimination by signing a pioneering Global Ethic.

CPWR is celebrating the 120th and 20th Anniversary of this vision on November 16th in Chicago, and framing the future towards the vision, with a benefit program & dinner to ensure the ongoing work of the Parliament. Please lend your support with your donation of spirit and resources. We hope you can share with us on November 16 as we celebrate:

Living Out the Vision

4:00 p.m. Renewing the Vision:  Reflections on the 1893 Parliament and the 1993 Global Ethic
Featured panelists including the esteemed:

  • Dr. Martin Marty
  • Dr. Allison Stokes
  • and the first Executive Director of CPWR, Dr. Daniel Gomez-Ibáñez

6:00 p.m. Benefit Dinner  
Recognizing Our Leaders, Celebrating The Future

Chicago Sinai Congregation
15 West Delaware Place
Chicago, IL
60610

To Purchase Individual $150 Tickets Please Visit The Parliament of the World’s Religions Anniversary Benefit or send your check to CPWR Attn: Stephen Avino, 70 E. Lake Street Suite 205, Chicago, IL 60601.

What a promising time to move into a shared dynamic future with your support. We look forward to sharing with you this November 16. To learn more about purchasing a table, becoming a sponsor, and/or becoming a benefactor of CPWR, Living Out The Vision, please contact Brian Savage. Development Associate at Brian@parliamentofreligions.org or 312-629-2990.
  • Benefactor: $5000
  • Sponsor: $1000
  • Table Sponsorship (10 tickets): $1200
Desire to share in the spirit of this momentous anniversary? Please consider giving in support of CPWR carrying on the work towards that vision, convening major interfaith events, connecting people through newsletters and social media, developing model programs like Sharing Sacred Space and training groups through Ambassadors and Faiths Against Hate.Warm Regards,


Dr. Mary Nelson
Executive Director

Dalai Lama Enlightens CPWR Youth Supporters in New Zealand

The Dalai Lama offered words of hope and encouragement to a youth delegation of world faiths organized by CPWR Ambassador

Youth Delegation Supporters of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions learn from the Dalai Lama on June 10 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Lachlan MacKay during a three-day tour of New Zealand.  The Tibetan Buddhist leader and Nobel Peace Laureate shared 20 minutes with young people representing a range of different spiritual and faith backgrounds at the Chateau on the Park Hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand on June 10.

The meeting, to introduce youth supporters of CPWR to the Dalai Lama, centered on the question, “What is the most important thing for young adults and youth to remember when it comes to supporting the interfaith movement and the vision of a world of peace and compassion?”

Offering advice on how youth can work together in harmony both within their faith communities and in the global interfaith movement, the Dalai Lama shared his view that although religions have diverse philosophical perspectives on life, they all share an emphasis on love and compassion.  “Religion is about cultivating a more peaceful mind, so it’s very disappointing if religion becomes a source of conflict,” explains His Holiness. “Our traditions share a common message of love and compassion, patience and tolerance. If we also remember the instructions about forgiveness, there’ll be no basis for conflict.”

The youth delegation of about a dozen people included representatives from Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Baha’i, Quakers, the Sri Chinmoy movement and other spiritual backgrounds. Raving about the experience, CPWR Ambassador Lachlan Mackay said,

Lachlan MacKay is greeted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. MacKay is the National Vice-President of the United Nations Association of New Zealand and an international ambassador for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

The audience was an overwhelming spiritual experience which will not be forgotten by any of the delegation. We regard His Holiness as one of the greatest peace and interfaith heroes of our time. It was an honour and a privilege to be in his presence. I hope the experience and the message His Holiness offered to us will inspire those present at our meeting with him to work tirelessly for interfaith dialogue and collaborative action with all youth in Aotearoa irrespective of their chosen religious or spiritual path. It is a firm belief of those in the interfaith movement that we have to increase our building of bridges of trust, love, understanding and peace amongst all cultures and ethnicities if we are to counteract the many problems facing our very polarised and conflicted world.

Article edited from original by Lachlan Mackay, International Ambassador and Member of the Ambassadorial Advisory Council, CPWR, and  Tom McGuire, Member of the Interfaith Youth Movement in New Zealand

Delegation of Interfaith Youth Leaders in Aotearoa. Delegation Head: Lachlan Mackay – Baha’i, Wellington and International Ambassador for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Deputy Head: Matt Gardner – Catholic, Christchurch and Irene McDowall – Presbyterian/Multicultural, Wellington. Rebekah Sands – Baha’i, Hamilton, Tom McGuire – Sri Chinmoy, Auckland Nadiah Ali – Muslim, Christchurch<br />Grace Reeves – Spiritual, Wellington. Robin de Haan – Buddhist, Auckland (mentor – over 30). Jonathan and Char-Lien Tailby – Quakers, Hutt Valley (mentors – over 30)