In the news today we’re hearing of several stories of contentiousness involving religion. The flap over a presidential candidate opposing a Muslim sitting in the White House (when our country is founded on religious freedom), the clerk in Kentucky who will not file marriage licenses for gay couples, internationally the Syrian refugees crisis, and the rise of ISIS.
At the same time, a growing body of religious leaders are standing against interreligious fighting and contentiousness, and are standing in solidarity with each other, with justice, with respect for each other and the Earth. The harmonizing, peace-giving, restorative face of religion is a powerful and hopeful force in the world today. The Pope’s declaration on the environment and on economic justice are examples. Interfaith groups of Christians, Jews and Muslims have launched a national campaign, “We Refuse to Be Enemies.” And internationally, the Parliament of World Religions is meeting this month in Salt Lake City “to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”
I feel very fortunate because I will be attending the Parliament as part of a Sufi delegation. I first heard about the Parliament in Seminary when taking history classes. You see, the first Parliament took place in 1893 in Chicago, less than a mile from the UU seminary I attended. From its inception, the Parliament has been a beacon of hope in our world. If You want to learn more, please visit http://www.parliamentofreligions.org//mission
After the inaugural event in 1893, the Parliament did not convene for 100 years. It was started again in Chicago in 1993. Since then it is held every few years at various locations around the globe, recently in Australia and also Spain. So this year’s gathering in Salt Lake City, though far away in some ways, is relatively close by on a global scale. Some of this year’s presenters in Salt Lake City will be the Indigenous Grandmothers, the Dalai Lama, Jane Goodall, Dr. Tariq Ramadan, Arun Ghandi (grandson of the Mahatma), Krista Tippett, Eboo Patel, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nobel laureate –Mairead Maguire, Dr. John L. Esposito, Marianne Williamson, and Dr. Rangimarie Turuki Arikirangi Rose Pere. I am grateful that I will have the opportunity to hear their wisdom, and be in their collective presences along with the other 10,000 or so attendees from around the world.
I am especially looking forward to the music which will be performed at the Parliament. Rev. Patty Willis of the South Valley UU Church in Salt Lake, a friend of mine, and her partner, Mary Lou Price, Music Director there, have been commissioned to write, and with the Parliament choir, perform the opening theme for the Parliament. We in Springfield will actually get a chance to hear some of the music from the Parliament performed by our choir on October 25.
At the worship in Springfield on October 25, I’ll share with You stories and insights from the Parliament. In this church year, as we explore how to cultivate optimism and be passionate about the impossible, I think that the examples of interfaith cooperation, synergy and harmony are especially inspiring and appropriate. I believe in the power of prayer because I have experienced it in my life. My greatest hope for the Parliament is that the collective prayers of all of these sincere hearts attuned to Love will create a ripple of Love which will encircle the planet and continue to help all of us awaken more to our greatest good. I look forward to sharing with You what I experience in Salt Lake City. See You at Church..