In 1993, the Parliament of the World’s Religions was convened in Chicago, with 8,000 people from all over the world coming together to celebrate diversity and harmony and to explore religious and spiritual responses to the critical issues which confront us all.
Originally organized by a group of people of different faiths planning a centenary celebration of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was incorporated as a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and furthering this legacy. The Council, now recognized as simply the Parliament of the World’s Religions, hosted the centennial celebration in the birthplace of the modern interfaith movement, the City of Chicago.
At the 1993 Parliament, an Assembly of 250 religious and spiritual leaders endorsed a groundbreaking document, Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration.
Unlike its successors, the first modern-day Parliament of the World’s Religions did not highlight a specific theme. Rather it was defined by its celebration of the legacy of the 1893 Convening and thematic plenaries.
The thematic plenaries addressed:
The 1993 Parliament program began each morning with special meditation and concluded each evening with thematic plenaries, hosted at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel and various sites throughout the city.
The Opening Plenary was a celebratory pageant of music from East and West, interfaith processional, welcomes, blessings, and invocations. The Closing Plenary included a keynote address by H.H. the Dalai Lama, invocations from the Parliament Presidents, concluding remarks, a performance by a multicultural dance company, and a rousing final concert by Walter Whitman and the 200-voice Soul Children and Chicago Choir.
Over 500 major presentations, seminars, lectures, and workshops on faith teachings and critical issues were featured during the week.
Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of the 1993 Parliament Convening was the Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders and their discussion of issues and challenges that face the global community.
The Assembly affirmed the process of developing a framework within which there would be a broad and common understanding for how people behave in relation to one another, for shared behaviors which are acceptable and unacceptable across religious and spiritual traditions.
Major independent symposia on Science, Religion and Violence, Business, Media, and Pluralism were offered as micro-conferences over the full course of the program.
A thematically ordered, guest-moderated Academic component was also offered on a daily basis. Daily movement, meditation, exercise, and wellness workshops were also available to participants.
A major Fine Arts exhibit drew crowds in the upper exhibition hall, and a special viewing room harbored a film/video Festival throughout the week. A preview of the feature film, BARAKA, attracted almost 1000 people at its Art Institute screening.
The Festival of Sacred Performing Arts engaged the audience with dance, song, music, poetry, ceremonies, and drama for more than four hours. The Empire Room hosted international performances in all media for four full days.
The Togethernet computer network seminar ran from morning through evening each day.
The Parliament of the People, held during the lunch hour for four days, successfully established a sense of community among this highly diverse group, ultimately producing a set of twelve communal newsletters entitled, “Your Voice.”
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