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Of Course We Chose Chicago!

Written by Parliament Staff
August 19, 2022

Part 1: The 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions

It is important to celebrate those who built a city. The dreamers and doers who transformed Chicago for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition into an iconic World’s Fair City left behind gifts that cemented Chicago as a premier place to be, to see, to be seen, and fully experience.

That Chicago, the one you know about, have visited (or hope to) is beloved for so many reasons: Chicago is opulent, jazzy, ethnically rich, culturally quite specific, culinarily genius, artistically significant, picture perfect from the Lake, an industrial force….your kind of town, worthy of all its praise. Its people living up to the challenge to make it worthy, safe, and prosperous for all.

For those uninitiated to the global interfaith movement, this city is all that and offers even more to celebrate about her global standing in history- a reason that will bring the Parliament of the World’s Religions – the world’s largest, most diverse, and inclusive global interfaith convening back to Chicago next August.

A New Generation of Chicagoans to Take Part in International Interfaith Legacy

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is not only an interreligious conference, it’s also a multi-faith festival of global scale featuring jam-packed days of mainstage talks from luminaries, critical issue plenaries, interactive programs, profound spiritual performances, and next year – even a parade – all centering on a promise of peace, justice, and sustainability the interfaith movement organizes local and global activities around.

Art Institute of Chicago | Photo by Danny Burke

In advance of the third convening of a Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago– home to its first (1893), its centenary (1993, the second Parliament), and its next (2023), the 9th Parliament gives Chicago the opportunity for a new generation to participate in a historic legacy, what was at its beginnings the blueprint that started productive conversations between religions 130 years ago is now returning home to continue to power peaceful, just, and sustainable action to this day.

Religions Take Aim at Autocracy

After seven global convenings over the last 29 years, (six held in world-class cities on four continents already and a seventh recently organized virtually during the global pandemic), the Parliament of the World’s Religions returns to its birthplace of Chicago to host its most ambitious convening to date – inviting people of faith and goodwill to assemble behind the call to address religious freedom and the dangerous rise in autocracy.

Make no mistake: this conference does not present the notion of religious freedom as a shelter for the nationalist or anti-woman lobby among faith communities, it rather walks the line of religious freedom as a human right: upholding the dignity of people of faith to live and worship peacefully without the dangers of bigotry, violence, and state-sanctioned discrimination. The Parliament of the World’s Religions has in earlier meetings sought to “Reclaim the Heart of Humanity,” “Make a World of Difference,” and think about the “Promise of Inclusion” and be “for something.”  In 2021 this began to shift, embracing themes of grief and compassion, responding to the collective need of its time.

In 2023, the Parliament openly calls to gather people interested in the preservation of freedom and human rights and addresses the public beyond the emotional “heart” into the intellectual “conscience” – to think, view, and feel our individual impact as players in our communities, seeking to help a new generation of interfaith activists a place to give voice to what’s best for all humanity as we navigate this critical moment in history together.

Beyond a Birthplace

One champion helping steer the Parliament of the World’s Religions toward making the 9th gathering a historic moment for Chicago is the senior advisor to Mayor Lori Lightfoot on faith initiatives Rev. Vance Henry. Henry is a longtime public servant in the mayor’s office synonymous with his work bridging community and faith-based initiatives with the support of multiple mayoral administrations.

Chicago O’Hare Airport | Photo by Engin Yapici

Henry said, “Chicago is a world-class city that boasts a reputation from its earliest days as a hub of economic, civic, cultural and religious life for the growth of the country. At the heart of the strength, growth, and vitality of Chicago is the religious character and values of the citizens that call Chicago home.”

The Parliament’s call for advancing human rights mirrors what interfaith and religious communities could be called to focus on across the neighborhoods of Chicago.  Those visiting next year will witness that “Peacemaking is the business of the faith communities in this city,” Henry said, before continuing to share his vision of how the 2023 Parliament can benefit the city, as its interfaith networks grapple with difficult times:

“We have to lift up how we are meeting the needs of those who are unsafe, food insecure, and homeless.”

At a busy juncture of organizing, the Parliament of the World’s Religions is well positioned to create history in the 2023 gathering with the support of city partners which includes Mayor Lori Lightfoot herself, who was gracious in helping to announce that the Parliament “chose Chicago” and welcome those planning to visit next year. She recently shared with Henry that she “is proud to celebrate the vision, efforts, and leadership of the Parliament of the World’s Religions as they work hard to host the 130th year Anniversary Event in its birthplace here in Chicago.”

Let’s Make the Chicago Parliament’s Third Act the Best Yet 

By 2023, organizers hope a 9th Parliament of the World’s Religions will be remembered in keeping with the legacy of earlier convenings. Reaching “most significant yet” is a thrill to imagine.

Key Performance Indicators may say the Parliament featured the biggest mainstream audience to date, secured enough funding, and garnered positive global media coverage. But it’s also convening in a moment to celebrate that at 130 years, the Parliament is still growing, holding space in new hearts, and continuing to impact generations that only knew of a Parliament of the World’s Religions in historical memory.

It’s now their Chicago Parliament to create.