The 2009 Parliament theme – Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth – reflected the urgent need for religious and spiritual communities and all people of goodwill to act on their concerns for the environment, peace, and for overcoming poverty.
It also encouraged responsibility for cultivating awareness of our global interconnectedness. This Parliament will focus on the struggles and spiritualities of Indigenous People around the globe, particularly highlighting the Indigenous communities of Australia.
Thousands of people from around the world convened to renew their work for the future of the planet.
The Parliament’s theme, “Making a World of Difference: Hearing each Other, Healing the Earth,” included presentations by President Jimmy Carter, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, the Venerable Thích Nhat Hanh, scholar Karen Armstrong, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sister Joan Chittester and many, many others.
For seven days and six nights, attendees participated in over 600 programs, including a dazzling array of evening plenary events, provocative panel discussions, sacred and cultural performances, intra and inter-religious engagement, art exhibits and countless impassioned and impromptu conversations. In addition, a special delegation from the White House and the U.S. Department of State journeyed to Melbourne for insights on improving Muslim relations.
Subthemes emerging from previous Parliaments resonated as urgent matters to address at the 2009 gathering.
Throughout the week, hundreds of programs explored these critical issues through the many lenses of diverse religious perspectives:
The 2009 Parliament’s program featured seven evening plenary sessions. Each plenary celebrated the key subthemes of the Parliament and included and International Plenary, Sacred Music Concert, Youth Plenary, Communities Night, Melbourne Plenary, and an Opening and Closing Plenary.
Intrareligious sessions were held during the Parliament to give religious and spiritual communities the opportunity to express their values, vibrancy and commitments, especially the teachings of each tradition about how to relate to people of other spiritual backgrounds. Many of the sessions included combined panels that gave voice to multiple perspectives within each religious tradition and from diverse geographic locations.
The Parliament’s engagement sessions featured a wide variety of programs focusing on:
Young people designed and hosted daily sessions, programming, workshops and diverse service projects, such as the highly successful “Coffee House,” an after-hours lounge and entertainment area, especially created to encourage strangers to become friends, informal chats with VIP guests, and more interfaith discussion.
Films provided a vivid medium through which stories were told and new perspectives and understanding were nurtured. Developed in collaboration with the Hartley Film Foundation and Auburn Media, the richly diverse presentation of films included the best of current documentaries on the world’s religious and spiritual traditions, such as Academy Award Nominee “Burma VJ,” which tells the story of a 27-year-old video journalist leading a group of reporters when Burmese monks lead a massive, peaceful uprising against the regime, as well as “The Dhamma Brothers,” a moving story of meditation and transformation in an overcrowded maximum-security prison.
Diverse performances intertwined with plenary sessions, discussions, conversations and forums. Participants experienced traditional Aboriginal and Indigenous dance and songs, the poetry of Rumi and other mystical poets, religious and spiritual comedy, African drumming, chanting from diverse traditions, fine art exhibitions, and major artistic performances. World-class musicians, vocalists and dancers performed in Melbourne, including the Agape International Choir, the Naqshbandi Sufi Order of Australia and the Gyuto Monks of Tibet.
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