Pathways to Peace: The wisdom of listening, the power of commitment
The fourth Parliament of the World’s Religions was held in Barcelona, Spain, in July of 2004. This unique international interreligious gathering took place within the context of the 141-day Universal Forum of Cultures, an unprecedented series of conferences, congresses and debates exploring peace, diversity, and sustainability.
The July 7-13 Convening was organized by the Parliament of the World’s Religions in partnership with the Universal Forum of Cultures—Barcelona 2004 and in association with the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia.
The 2004 Parliament offered an exceptional opportunity to engage the many facets of the theme: “Pathways to Peace: the Wisdom of Listening, the Power of Commitment.
About the Theme
People of faith, spirit and goodwill came together to encounter the rich diversity of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions, listen to each other with open hearts and minds, dialogue for mutual understanding, reflect on the critical issues facing the world and commit to discovering new pathways to peace.
Celebrating the 2004 Parliament theme of Pathways to Peace: the Wisdom of Listening, the Power of Commitment, the evening plenary gatherings were filled with beauty and inspiration. Plenaries featured greetings, blessings, and keynote addresses from revered religious and spiritual leaders, as well as sacred observances, celebrations, and performances.
The 2004 Parliament offered over 450 programs, lectures, dialogues, workshops, symposia, performances, and exhibits. These offerings reflected a wide range of religious and spiritual traditions and guiding institutions including government business, labor, education, media, science, intergovernmental organizations, and organizations of civil society. Presenters were emerging and well-known leaders, activists, scholars, and experts. Programs and presenters were carefully balanced in terms of gender, region and format. Each day was organized around three pivotal dynamics that animate the interreligious movement:
- The intra-religious track provided an opportunity to learn about the teachings, practices and dynamics of a wide variety of religious and spiritual communities and the resources and rationales from within these traditions for interreligious cooperation.
- The interreligious track focused on structured opportunities for dialogue with a wide range of panel discussions from a variety of religious and spiritual perspectives.
- The engagement track featured an exemplary selection of successful projects and initiatives that are making a difference around the world.
THE PARLIAMENT EXPERIENCE
Parliament By The Sea
This unique venue offered four experiences open to Parliament and Barcelona Forum participants alike.
- Sikh Celebration – 2004 was the 400 year anniversary of the establishment of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the Sikh scriptures). In honor of this and other significant Sikh anniversaries, Guru Nanak Niskam Sewak Jatha—a prominent Sikh community based in the United Kingdom— established a major venue for celebration, education and hospitality.
- Sacred Space – The “sacred space” was used by a variety of religious and spiritual communities for contemplation, meditation, chanting and prayer. This space was ringed by a “sacred carpet of flowers” exhibit created by the Accio Civica Calderina of Caldes de Montbui, Spain.
- Walk through Time – An awe-inspiring one-mile-long exhibit depicted the 4.6 billion year evolution of Earth and life on it. This experience was developed by Hewlett-Packard labs and given to the Foundation for Global Community in California, who brought it to the Parliament.
- Labyrinth – A form of ancient spirituality, walking the labyrinth offered Parliament participants time for quiet meditation and a profound connection with others.
Sacred Music Concert – Held at the famous Sagrada Familia Temple, the Sacred Music Concert was a symbol of the Parliament experience itself: diverse religious and spiritual communities sharing their distinctive traditions through music, movement, meditation and chant in an exhilarating display of harmony.
Communities Night – The religious and spiritual communities of Barcelona extended a warm and gracious welcome to members of their own traditions from around the world. Parliament participants were invited to “feel at home” and share in an opportunity for dialogue, observances, and hospitality with local members.
Regional Night – Hosted in partnership with the United Religions Initiative, the regional night offered Parliament participants an opportunity to meet and dialogue with others from their home region. An accompanying Interreligious Baazar enabled organizations to share their work through a variety of exhibits.
Speakers Corner and Solidarity Fair – This interactive forum brought together local, national and international non-profits, community organizations and educational institutions to explore how individuals can become involved in local peace efforts and connect with others engaged in similar efforts around the world.
Symposia – Spanning multiple days, 15 different symposia gave participants an opportunity to explore topics in more depth with leading international scholars and practitioners.
Performances – Participants enjoyed a stimulating array of 28 musical, theatrical and dance performances.
Exhibits – Over 70 booths provided information on service organizations, educational institutions and cultural groups.
Art Gallery – The Parliament Art Gallery offered the visions of 21 artists from around the world providing fresh, new experiences that explored diverse religious and cultural expressions.
Films – A remarkable series of interactive film-centered programs offered screenings of 16 exceptional, rarely-seen documentaries and world premieres followed by discussions with religious leaders, producers and directors.
Other Program Offerings
Morning Observances – Participants were invited to observe or engage in over 100 religious and spiritual practices, meditations, prayers, and reflections from a wide variety of traditions.
Open Space – Held each evening, Open Space was a flexible, informal time for participants to extend the conversations that were begun earlier in the day, form a discussion group around areas of shared interest or explore a topic in greater depth.
Parliament Academy – The Parliament Academy was a series of gatherings, programs and discussions geared to participating students and faculty from over 30 colleges, universities and seminaries.
Partner Cities – Sponsored by the Goldin Institute for International Partnership and Peace, activists and religious leaders involved in their Partner Cities Network shared best practices for grassroots organizing.
Off-Site Programs – Opportunities to observe the rich cultural and religious heritage of Spanish Catalonia included tours of Sagrada Familia, a Buddhist temple, museums and local places of worship and spiritual practice.