Accessibility Tools

Skip to main content

A Big Thank You… and Ask… 10 Years in the Making

Written by Rev. Stephen Avino
May 31, 2023

Early in my work with the Parliament of the World’s Religions, our tiny team faced a sudden, enormously threatening question about the ongoing need for a Parliament of the World’s Religions to exist.

Ten years ago last month, we passed the question forward to our global network, asking (and at times pleading!) for supporters to chip in anything they could in the form of financial help to handle a problem no one expected.

This fundraiser saved the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

When we announced raising more than $250,000 for an old debt over a few sleepless weeks, we thanked our supporters, and immediately put this symbol of faith in what the Parliament means to so many to work.

Hundreds of people made that happen. And just over two years later, I saw ten thousand people assembling in Salt Lake City for a Parliament convening, most there blissfully unaware that just before that, the Parliament almost closed forever.

With little more than the conviction to hold a successful Parliament, few dollars to stretch and a solidly united team, we nursed a struggling nonprofit shaken on its knees back to a force of PoWR, a firmly footed convener with a mandate to help empower people of faith and goodwill to advance justice, climate action, women’s dignity and human rights, and many other causes convened in Salt Lake and then Toronto.

I ask myself now, Were we simply lucky? Or was there a bigger reason the Parliament of the World’s Religions was saved by so many individual people?

Those who come together this August in Chicago will be saving the Parliament yet again–not from financial threats but from ideological ones that have seized power across the world, expertly articulated by our Program Chair Rev. HPs. Phyllis Curott this Spring. A forum such as the Parliament of the World’s Religions can never organize and speak freely from the hearts of our different faiths without democracy. Our freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly are not guaranteed to us, and we must stand together to demand that these rights remain.

The future Parliaments cannot be guaranteed without those who believe fiercely in what we’re doing, contributing all they can to ensure the good work of multiple generations is not erased by forces that mobilize politics to harm women; religious, racial, sexual minorities; and our planet.

Some say we’ve become too political. I say we’re doing nothing more than assembling the members of faith and spiritual traditions doing their best to make sense of–and make a difference in–a world that isn’t kind to most of us. If you’re advocating for a better world, there will always be someone who accuses you of being “too political.”

We are fortunate to have identified hundreds of faith and civic thinkers who are exercising their rights by focusing on saving democracy and they will be with us in Chicago. Our presenters will share their strength and demonstrate why we should act, what we can do, and what life can become with our collective voices joined on the global stage of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

I believe that those original visionaries who started the Parliament would have wanted this. And, those who need future Parliaments to exist are relying on us.

The world needs you to join me in Chicago in August to take a stand for the rights we’re all at risk of losing, and to snapshot this moment in history with as much religious, economic, and cultural diversity as we can to embody a vision of a world that upholds democracy, human rights, and freedom for all of us.

If you’re planning to attend the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, thank you again for putting your faith in this amazing thing we’re here to create. It will be an incredible week. I can’t wait to meet you. Please register now.

P.S. If you can’t make it to Chicago–please make a gift to our scholarship fund today that gives us the financial opportunity to bring in those who also believe in what we’re doing.