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Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago(CRLMC) Join the Opening Plenary

Barbara Abrajano, President of The Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago (CRLMC) addressed the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.

Good morning. Distinguished faith leaders, honored teachers, local and international guests. On behalf of the Council of Religious Leaders, where a number of them are behind me, I welcome you to our city and to this extraordinary convening of the parliament of the world’s religions.

It is good to have you here in Chicago, the birthplace of this Parliament. Our council was founded so that Chicago could hear the voices of its many and diverse faith communities, united in speaking to the crucial issues we all face. Our work is a direct continuation of the work of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 60 years ago, Dr. King convened here the Chicago National Conference on Religion and Race. This extraordinary meeting of leaders from across this country was convened to issue an appeal to the conscience of the American people to take action and eliminate racism. It marked the first time that official bodies of Judaism, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism had jointly and publicly conferred to express agreement on anything.

Different faith communities working together to serve the common good is the foundation of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago. It is also the core of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. What I want to stress today are two important lessons from inter-religious work. 

First, interfaith collaboration has tremendous power. No single community of faith can work alone to resolve the challenges that all of us face together. Finding common ground can be difficult in a world filled with people who promote fear and division. They advocate subordination instead of equality. They prefer ignorance to evidence. Their answer is violence instead of accommodation or respect. You are the voice of reason. You are the moral consciousness. They betray the values of every faith tradition represented in this room. But if we stand together for what we all believe, then our diversity is our greatest strength. We show people there is another better way. 

The second lesson is that our unity of vision is hollow unless we act on our needs, beliefs. People are comfortable with religious leaders who talk about peace and justice, but make no effort to realize these ideals at home. Change only comes when we match the words of our sacred teachings with our daily actions in our community.

Dr. King knew that living the teachings of Jesus was dangerous. It required discipline. It made other people uncomfortable. It involved personal sacrifice. But Dr. King understood that we must love our neighbor and show them we love and how we believe and behave. When our neighbors see our commitment to peace and justice in our lives, then they can join us in creating a better world. Let us unite in our common issues, let us speak faithfully, and let our deeds match our words, both this week and when we return home. 

May you enjoy your time in Chicago and at this Parliament. Thank you.

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