What two 9/11 anniversaries can teach us about the role of religion

September 7, 2021

Originally Published in Religion News Service on September 7, 2021


We are approaching the September anniversary of an event that illustrated the power of religion in the world, one so influential that it altered our view of entire religious communities, and changed the way faith groups relate to one another.

I speak of Sept. 11, 1893, the day Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk who had come to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago as a delegate to the first Parliament of the World’s Religions, gave a speech to an audience of 7,000, in a space that is now the Art Institute of Chicago. He became a sensation and helped to introduce Hindu philosophy, as well as yoga, to the United States.

That day Vivekananda spoke of the value of religious tolerance, articulated a Hindu theology of interfaith cooperation and invited his colleagues of other faiths to do the same. He ended his speech by praying for the end of “all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between people wending their way to the same goal.”

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The Parliament of the World's Religions is headquartered in the City of Chicago, the traditional homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Nations, and other tribes such as the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Sac, and Fox. 

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