by Karen Tate
This article was originally published on January 2, 2010 by Examiner.
Traditionally, this is the time of year many think about how they would like the future to be different, be it their personal future or the future of our society and world. Dedication to building a harmonious and sincere interconnection with other faiths was an important theme for those who participated in the recent Parliament of World Religions – certainly a vital aspiration considering how divisive religion can be. So, as we begin a new decade, while we are open to aspirations new and old, let us take a moment and hear of hope renewed at this international gathering, as told by a Goddess Advocate who was there.
Rev. Angie Buchanan participated in the Parliament of World Religions held in Australia only a few short weeks ago. From her review below and other attendees I’ve spoken to, (hear Patrick McCollum on Voices of the Sacred Feminine Radio) they came away with feelings bridges can and will be built as we strive to find common ground with other faiths – and that common ground sometimes comes through the many faiths who have begun or are continuing to embrace a Feminine Face of God.
“In talking about the interfaith movement I often say that it is not really about religion but, about peace, social justice and sustainability of the Earth. I like to use the analogy of islands and bridges.
In this analogy the islands represent the religions; each one being the source of comfort, familiarity and satisfying feasts of the soul for those who choose to reside there. The interfaith movement itself is represented by the bridges that are built between those islands.
In the interfaith environment one can feel free to travel those bridges using them to visit other islands and learn of the inhabitants there. More often though the bridges serve as a meeting place; a neutral space where the real work gets done, where the dialogue happens between people whose only common attributes may very well be their humanness, and their residency on Planet Earth. Held this past December at the brand new Convention Center in Melbourne, Australia, the Parliament of World Religions event was the Mother of all bridges.
They came by the thousands in their robes and liturgical attire. Putting hearts and heads together they addressed global issues that affect all of humanity, regardless of how each individual chooses to worship. Those wearing turbans and those wearing yarmulkes could be found in deep conversation with those in hijab, and those with no special robes or head coverings at all.
In a program that contained over 800 presentations, observances and performances, dialogs were pursued on topics such as; “Leadership Among Muslim Males in a Post 911 World,” “Interpreting the Text; Apostasy and Homosexuality,” “Reflections of the Global Financial Crisis,” “Securing Food and Water for All People” and “Addressing the Shadow in Our Own Traditions.” These are not lightweight discussions, but deep, sometimes joyful and sometimes anguished soul-ripping confrontations with reality on Earth in 2009.
Paganism and the Goddess Movement were also present, and vocal. Pagans numbered close to 100 from the United States and Europe, with several hundred more Australians on the periphery hosting Communities Night, and holding local off-site events such as Magic Happens, and Cirque Noir. There were at least twenty programs offered by them, and it seemed as though every program drew the crowds, filling the rooms to overflowing.
Phyllis Curott, Wiccan author, and founder of the Temple of Ara, was a panelist in “The Divine Feminine” along with Sister Joan Chittister, Mother Maya and Karma Lekshe Tsomo. The room was filled to overflowing, mixing levels of culture, life experience, and religious tradition.
Each panelist offered a unique perspective of the Divine Feminine. Curott represented those traditions that actually image and worship the creative source as female – the Earth as Goddess, constantly giving birth to herself, and women as examples of immanent divinity, being inspired, and inhabited by the Divine Feminine; personifications of Goddess. Chittister certainly offered a sharper edge. She gave voice to the thoughts of most of the people in the room about the issues that face women in the world today, passionately declaring, “It’s time to reverse the trend that enthrones male power over female passion.” Mother Maya served us a reminder – we are women and that’s okay. We don’t need to become men. Men need to be awakened to their nurturing side and become nurturing, participating fathers again.
Because the Indigenous sub-theme was prevalent, it seemed a very good time for Pagans to finish building the bridge between their traditions and those of the indigenous peoples from around the world. My panel titled, “People Call Us Pagan – The European Indigenous Traditions” did just that by exploring the roots of the contemporary Pagan Movement that draw heavily on European Indigenous Traditions.
As I have often stated, “We cannot forget that many of the global issues up for discussion in the interfaith forums are key components of our spiritual paths — revering the Earth as sacred and protecting her resources; clean water and air. These concepts were once the object of scorn by governments and mainstream religions and now, suddenly they are vogue. Suddenly the Divine Feminine is rising within the patriarchal structures when for 2500 years She has been shoved into the closet, ignored, and attempts have been made to erase Her from religious texts as well as the history books.
We can serve as a warning to other indigenous populations as to what can happen to a culture trying to avoid extinction. We have been at this place before, where our practices are absorbed by more financially powerful paradigms and twisted into something almost unrecognizable. We must find a way to work with others on these important issues while still maintaining guardianship of them, or risk losing them again when perhaps they go out of style.”
In his book, “Global Responsibility,” Theologian, Hans Küng said; “There will be peace on earth when there is peace among the world religions.” “No world peace without peace among religions; no peace among religions without dialog between religions.”
This is the point where dialogue among religious traditions becomes critical. If these dialogues will actually lead toward achieving world peace and a sustainable planet, then the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions has invented the wheel and the journey has already begun.
Published with Rev. Angie Buchanan’s permission.
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