His Worship John Tory, Mayor of Toronto, and several community leaders led a joint press conference May 2nd, 2017, welcoming the Parliament of the World's Religions for the first time to Canada. More than 100 guests attended the official announcement at the Toronto City Hall to share in the celebration of Toronto being selected the host city of the 7th Parliament of the World's Religions to be held November 1 - 7, 2018.
The launch opened with recognition of the Parliament's respect for the traditional lands of Mississaugas of Credit River and Aanishinaabe, and the Parliament's welcome to sacred Indigenous ground, signified by an opening ceremony led by Patricia and Christian, a brother-sister presentation from the Cree Nation. Featuring remarks from Parliament of the World's Religions representatives and the POWR Toronto-2018 host committee, the speeches reflected on both the promises and the urgency of the next Parliament.
"The most culturally and religiously diverse city in the world" will be the site to host "the most diverse international gathering of cultures and religions," noted Rev. Dr. Robert Sellers, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World's Religions, as he and Vice-Chair Andras Corban Arthen declared the announcement of the selection of Toronto a unanimous and official action of the Parliament Board.
As the Parliament looks toward its 125-year anniversary in 2018, Parliament Executive Director Dr. Larry Greenfield said the 7th Parliament will be an ambitious opportunity to advance a mission of achieving "more justice in the world, more peace in the world, and a more flourishing, sustainable world."
Praising the host city as a site for "this kind of global transformation," Greenfield concluded, "[The Parliament] has a strong sense that Toronto is exactly the right city for advancing this mission because of what you have already accomplished, and what you have already committed yourself to in the future. People of the world need to experience this humane metropolitan community, this one - to enjoy it, to be inspired by Toronto, and to be instructed about how to operate and how to live in a great metropolitan area."
Mayor of Toronto John Tory reciprocated in the joy of welcoming the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions to his community, affirming the diversity of the city as an important attraction for the interfaith gathering he said he has been interested in hosting since he first learned about it three years ago from Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihavc. In sharing some of his own personal discovery, the Mayor said, "I'm still amazed at the degree to which people still know so little about each other," elaborating through an anecdote about his having only just learned about the Sikh tradition of Langar at the Khalsa Day celebration the previous day.
Voicing a commitment to eradicate "intolerance and bigotry" where it may still exist within Canada, the Mayor said that "a gathering like this is going to be not only good for the delegates who will travel from around the world, but for us [Torontonians]... it will reinforce, I hope, that need for all of us to learn about each other, to understand each other."
Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc, delighted by the Parliament's selection of his city, characterized interfaith achievement in Toronto as "faith-filled action at its very best," detailing examples and proclaiming that "Toronto has an important story to tell about how religious communities can work together and live together in a spirit not only of tolerance, which is a minimal standard, but a high level of cooperation in our city-building."
Zul Kassamali, Chair of the Greater Toronto Interfaith Council and 2018 Parliament host committee member, spoke directly to his experience as one of the 51% foreign-born community of Canadians who are concerned about pluralism and call the Toronto area home. Sharing that he was expelled from Uganda "because of his color," Kassamali looked toward a brighter future for the next generation that the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions will help establish in Toronto through a legacy fund for youth scholarships.
Sara Rahim, a representative of the Parliament's Emerging Leaders contituency and the final speaker told stories from her experience at the most recent Parliament. Rahim said that since addressing 10,000 people at the 2015 gathering in Salt Lake City, the Parliament's "work continues on issues such as climate change, income inequality and standing with Indigenous Peoples,... but, some setbacks have emerged."
To finish with a call to action, Rahim ended the press conference with the words, "it is my full hope that the next Parliament will use these challenges as opportunities to bring a wealth of extraordinary healing and power to individuals like myself to learn, to listen and to mobilize."
Members of the Toronto City Council, interfaith activists, religious leaders from greater Ontario and media applauded the news that more than 10,000 people from around the world are anticipated to take over the Metro Toronto Convention Center to celebrate the power of cooperation among the world's spiritual and secular peoples and institutions, and to commit together to advancing progress in overcoming some of the world's most pressing challenges.
Before a launch reception began, a ceremonial declaration of support for the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions was penned by Mayor Tory on behalf of the public of Toronto, and Chief Stacey LaForme and Diane Longboat (Mowahk) on behalf of Ontario's First Nations and Indigenous communities.
A compilation video is available to see highlights of event speakers:
Friends of the Parliament of the World's Religions may benefit from Pre-Registration savings now available through May 10, 2017, followed by the offering of reduced Super Saver registration rates beginning May 11, 2017.