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Celebrating the Spirit of the Parliament Convening, Staff Share Greetings from SBL AAR

Written by Parliament Staff
December 1, 2022

As the 2022 Annual Meetings of SBL AAR came to a close on Tuesday, November 22nd members of the Parliament Staff celebrated the opportunity to connect with hundreds of meeting attendees who stopped by Booth #909. Meeting attendees explored how to get student groups for the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions, learned about the Faith for Earth: A Call to Action publication and the resource guide for educators, as well as the ongoing work of the organization in advancing a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Surrounded by publishers, the Parliament booth stood out among its neighbors as students, educators, authors, and fellow exhibitors stopped by to chat, discuss the timely theme of the 2023 Convening, and learn more about the world’s premier interfaith event. Staff reconnected with participants from the early Parliament Convenings, who shared their excitement about the ongoing work of the organization and the continued success of the Convenings. Professor Jacob K. Olupona, an attendee of the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, shared his fascination with the growth of the organization and its commitment to addressing the critical issues of our time, which echoed the spirit of his first Parliament almost 30 years ago: 

“The experience [of attending a Parliament] was quite fascinating, I was still a young scholar coming from Africa, just coming in and having the opportunity to meet a number of older scholars…ultimately the Parliament succeeded in bringing people from Africa and encouraging them to also contribute to the dialogue based on their own experiences and their own religious traditions. For a long time, world religions was limited to the so-called ‘higher religions’ that excluded Africa and other traditions like Native American traditions and so on. So the new change has been quite progressive and fascinating to me.”

This same fascination was shared by attendees like Avalon Theisen, who has not had the opportunity to attend a Parliament Convening, but has often heard about others’ experiences and read about its historic legacy. Ms. Theisen, who proposed a program for the 2023 Convening through the now-closed Call for Programs, shared her excitement as she awaits a decision on her proposal and looks forward to attending the upcoming Convening in Chicago to experience the global interfaith event for herself.

A number of former trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, who were excited to reconnect with staff, are also looking forward to the Chicago Convening. Professor Michael Trice, the Director of the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement at Seattle University, who attended the Salt Lake City Convening and was involved in the organizing of the Toronto Convening, shared what he feels makes the Parliament Convenings so life-changing:

I think what was most interesting and most engaging and most heartfelt to me is the way that people showed up with one another…It’s the relationships that get built and it’s not so much what they had to say to one another really, often enough, it’s the silence between things. It’s the things people don’t say to one another that show up in gestures of generosity and kindness. It’s the ways that people attempt to show to one another that even though we are distinct from one another, with all the beauty of culture and religious values that shape all of our individual lives, there’s something that holds us together in the sinews of our shared humanity…”

The sentiment was reflected by Professor Veena Howard, a former Trustee and Professor at the California State University in Fresno, who encourages “…colleagues, students, friends, believers, or non-believers…” to join the Parliament in 2023.

Don’t miss the Early Bird Rate for the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions expiring on Thursday, December 15th at 11:59 PM Central US Time. Join thousands of religious, spiritual, and civic leaders answering the call to conscience to defend freedom and human rights.

On behalf of our Staff, we extend a special thank you to the kind individuals who signed up for our newsletter and agreed to be interviewed for promotion of the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions. The quotes featured have been edited for length and clarity.