Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity:
Working Together for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice, and Sustainability
More than two decades after the world came together to commemorate the 1893 birth of the global interfaith movement, the Parliament of the World’s Religions returned to the United States to hold its best-attended – and the most successful – interfaith conference in history.
The sixth Parliament called upon the world to “Reclaim the Heart of Our Humanity” and took place from October 15 – 19, 2015, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions convened on the theme, Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity! Working Together for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice, and Sustainability.
In a special note from the Process Committee at the time notes that:
We first heard the words ‘Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity’ from one of the young leaders in our community, who sensed that these words expressed something for which the world was deeply yearning. She was inspired by the heartbeat, the powerful potential of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions: thousands of kindred spirits – grounded in faith – coming together with compassion and forgiveness, with curiosity and convictions, with expansive vision and following a deeply personal call to action in response to the urgency of these times.
We gather at a unique moment in history when movements are converging, when we are realizing that the underlying commonalities – the “shared ground” of our human experience – have a common origin and a shared future. This Parliament offers something precious: the rare gift of time and space to explore that shared ground as we meet face to face and discover together what it means to reclaim the heart of our humanity, both individually and collectively
…We invite you to live into the answers to these questions: How am I going to take responsibility for restoring our humanity? What do I stand for? What am I willing to surrender? What radical gift have I been called to bring in service of healing our world?
Over 800 programs and eight major plenary sessions openly confronted the systemic and human-caused challenges of our time. People of faith chose to stand up together in the face of intensifying consequences of climate change, bigotry and hatred, rampant violence, preventable wars, abuses of human rights, and unchecked income inequality. A spotlight on emerging leadership and the reparation and preservation of the rights, hopes, and beliefs of diverse indigenous peoples would receive equal footing at the 6th global Parliament. In an overdue move toward gender equity in the interfaith movement, women spoke first, holding a full-day Inaugural Women’s Assembly on the opening day.
The Parliament galvanized followers of over 50 global faiths (and practitioners from hundreds of denominations and spiritual pathways) into action — action bolstered by healing and transformative experiences, and informed by inclusivity and mutual respect. To be in such a diverse and inclusive space was euphoric and wondrous. Parliament guests took home new relationships, a commitment to take action on the critical issues, and a renewed faith in the power of their collective actions.
Over 10,000 people of all ages journeyed to the Parliament from 75 nations, each guest bringing an eager curiosity about what humanity can accomplish when we join together at our spiritual center—at the heart of faith.
At the physical center of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions was the Parliament Bazaar. With a record number of 205 booths, religious traditions, non-proft groups, and international vendors showcased a wide variety of items, this was no ordinary exhibit hall!
In keeping with the intention for all Parliament spaces, the exhibitors called on people to get involved; to experience new ideas, to build new relationships and to taste and feel the textures of cultural wares from around the world.
Gathering 10,000 people around faith necessitates making room for prayer. With the talents of local Utah religious communities, 12 sacred spaces were curated to host visitors for worship and engagement programs, meditation, lectures, and workshops. Dedicated havens made space for Hinduism, Judaism, Jainism, Islam, Buddhism, Baha’i, Indigenous Peoples, Pagans, Christians, Sikhs, in addition to the Women’s Sacred Space and an Interfaith Prayer Room.
These sanctuaries became a real-world “neighborhood of religions” far exceeding the efforts made to accommodate religious diversity inherent in other world-class international meetings.
Connected to the main lobby of the Salt Palace, the bright and airy space was comfortably furnished through a generous partnership between Salt Lake City and its local chapter of Rotary International. It was the perfect place to catch up with an old colleague, meet a new friend, or hold a small group.
Next door, exhibits displayed selections that bridged medium and genres, coming together in some of the most relevant historic memorials and cultural masterpieces in the world today. These works served to orient participants to sensitive subject matter; the expressions of different groups often unaware of their own historically similar experiences.
Enriching surprises were placed around every corner of the Salt Palace. A perfect model reconstruction of a Jain Temple fanked the otherwise quiet help desk, a marvelous display and reminder of the teachings of “ahimsa” (nonviolence). Ornately woven banners hung throughout the center and flled the Salt Palace with symbols of the world’s faiths and natural beauty. Paper birds few from the ceiling canopy straight into another hallway adorned with handmade textiles of Goddesses.
Participants found themselves enveloped by art and music at each turn, where installations like the Parliament’s Meditation Cube refected light into the crowds. Interactive booths drew passers-by in to learn, to add their signature to a commemorative climate change display, or to share their personal life stories with flmmakers and archivists.
The music of the Parliament took on its own significance for many guests who attended, enhancing the scope of multicultural exhibition through exquisite creative expressions. Through the generosity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormon Tabernacle, an acoustically perfect venue, opened its majestic doors to the Parliament for a night of Sacred Music organized by a committee of talented Salt Lake volunteers.
Adjacent to the Salt Palace Convention Center is the Utah Museum of Contemporary Arts (UMOCA) which would serve as the offcial movie theatre of the 2015 Parliament. Guests were treated to discussions with the creators of the 12 flms by attending panels featuring directors, producers and actors, including members of the Oprah Winfrey Network and indigenous flmmaker and activist Stephen Newcomb.
In addition to the emPOWR Film Festival, the Parliament also featured a screening and panel discussion of Belief, a production of the Oprah Winfrey Network which aired for the frst time on October 18, 2015. Parliament guests were treated to a video message directly from Ms, Oprah Winfrey!
On Sunday October 18, approximately a thousand Parliament attendees and special guests gathered for the Golden Banquet, a beneft luncheon for the Parliament of the World’s Religions sponsored in partnership with Claremont Lincoln University.
Guests enjoyed a special exclusive interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and learned about the incredible activities of Claremont Lincoln from its President, Eileen Aranda, and founder Mr. David Lincoln.
A cherished part of Parliament lore is the legacy of langar. So it was a dream-come-true for organizers of the 2015 Parliament when the langar tradition was brought back by a multitude of enthusiastic Sikhs, who dedicated a year of planning to coordinate with the leadership of UK-based Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, international volunteers, Salt Lake City’s local gurdwara, and Parliament Board Trustee Manohar Singh Grewal.
The langar at the Salt Lake City Parliament served unlimited helpings of vegetarian food to upwards of 7000 people every day. Over 1000 volunteers took on cooking and ladling out delicious Indian fare, prepared in Utah’s main gurdwara and the Salt Palace.
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