The global situation in 2015 brought into focus the responsibility of all people of all faiths to work toward ending:
• Almost Fifty Armed Conflicts
• Innumerable Hate Crimes
• Pervasive Episodes of Hate Speech
One of the fastest and most efficient ways to combat prejudice is to humanize groups of people; to put faces to cultures, to religions, to ethnicities. The 2015 Parliament explicitly addressed humanization throughout its “War, Violence, and Hate Speech” track, with preeminent scholars, religious leaders, and activists delving deep into the roots of hate and conflict. From stories of individual, personal encounters with hate to state-effected acts of genocide, one factor remained constant- the failure to see one another as human.
Keynote speakers delivered timely, concise messages about what it takes to create a world of peace. While it is often difficult for individuals to change policy or to affect legislation, the 2015 Parliament called out the fact that the capacity to change the way we view our neighbors can start in a community, in a place of worship, and in a household; It is something that we can do on a daily basis, even if our resources are limited or our influence is minimal.
While the “War, Violence, and Hate Speech” programming track was a microcosm of this concept, in reality, the entire Parliament exemplified the idea of humanizing one another. Tribal religions from Northern Africa gave signs of peace to adherents of Shinto, Mormons ate meals next to Muslims, Sikhs meditated with Buddhists. Scholars shared peace strategies with young students and world renowned speakers laughed with grassroots organizers. Humans from 75 countries occupied the same space, and instead of throwing sparks off of one another, they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle; creating a picture through their togetherness that could never have been achieved on their own. Equipped with the inspiring words from keynote speakers and practical toolkits from program presenters, attendees left the Parliament with a new perspective on their global neighbors and a desire to share the earth with them.
The War, Violence and Hate Speech Plenary fit perfectly into the lattice of similar programming at the Parliament, proving that the attendees and program presenters carried with them a devotion to peace and a spirit of equality. Medea Benjamin’s words at the plenary were bolstered by a lively and convicting panel on Drone Warfare earlier that day, and especially timely words decrying Islamophobia echoed through Parliament programs.
• Describing Islamophobia more than once throughout the week as the “okay racism of our time“ called attention to the blatant double standard that runs rampant in countries across the world. Discrimination based on appearance suddenly becomes “okay” when it is tied to a religion or creed. Programs and plenary speakers provided a strong counter-narrative.
• Turning upside-down the preconceived notion that religion is responsible for war was the panel “Kill them (Qu’ran), Do Not Spare Them (Torah), and Cast Them Into Everlasting Fire (New Testament): Context of Difficult Religious Texts.” This - the best attended panel discussion at the Parliament - examined the violent passages of each of the Abrahamic holy books, calling to attention the historical context and dangers of misinterpretation.
• After Parliament attendees were thoroughly schooled in the ways hate, violence and terror are interrelated, cyclical phenomena, the challenge of peacebuilding remained. City mayors from across towns in North America and Europe converged to train attendees on ways of engaging government with peacebuilding plans. KAICIID delivered intensive training sessions on leveraging traditional and social media to create change and goodwill amidst disagreement and volatile relationships caused by divides.
• Respect for the dignity and human rights of LGBTQI communities, a subject often tiptoed around in global interfaith settings, was repeatedly raised in the call to reclaim the heart of our humanity.
• Implementing the Parliament’s call to “engage guiding institutions,” an eminent panel of military strategists, international law experts and religious leaders took up the challenge of responding to drone violence from an interfaith stance, enlisting participants to help draft a declaration denouncing drone warfare to the United States government.
• The Parliament was honored to host Dr. Suzanne Barakat and Pardeep Kaleka, who are surviving members of families that have endured high- profile hate massacres in the United States. Each have dedicated their lives to raising awareness and educating important audiences about the anatomy of hate in our society. These and additional guests with similar stories sent a powerful message to the world: recovering from hate can direct grieving families down a road of forgiveness, service and reconciliation.