As the light of dawn rose on the horizon on Thursday, November 1st in Toronto, 8,300+ people began to gather at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) for the seventh Parliament of the World’s Religions.
People from 81 nations, representing 118 diverse religious and faith traditions joined the 2018 Parliament Convening from November 1 – 7, 2018 in pursuit of global understanding, reconciliation, and change.
The theme of the 2018 Parliament Convening, The Promise of Inclusion, The Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change, highlighted the critical belief that notions of understanding, reconciliation, and change are only made possible when the world’s religious and spiritual communities, and the guiding institutions within these, live up to the promise of inclusion and the power of love that are rooted in the theologies of religious and spiritual traditions.
The theme was also inspired in part by the character of its host city. In Toronto, advancing civic partnerships among faiths and guiding institutions to work for economic, climate, or racial and sectarian justice means solving conflicts in ways that reflect the Parliament’s methods: increasing the roles of the world’s next generations, women and girls, Indigenous communities, and minority communities, including immigrants and refugees.
Under the leadership of programmatic Task Forces, made up of members of diverse regional, national, and religious backgrounds, the 2018 Parliament program was designed to provide guests with unique learning, networking, and engagement opportunities.
Eight signature tracks made up the majority of the programming at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions and highlighted key critical issues facing the global interfaith movement.
In addition to the Parliament’s signature tracks, the full program also featured a Sacred Space track, a Science & Religion track, a Canada track, and a specially curated track by interfaith partner, the Charter for Compassion.
The Exhibit Hall at a Parliament of the World’s Religions provides a unique opportunity for vendors, faith communities, and attendees to gather in an exchange of information and knowledge.
The Toronto Parliament Exhibit Hall featured over 139 exhibitors and was the home of the Interfaith Family Festival, the Lodge of Nations, and a variety of art & cultural exhibits through the week of November 1st through November 7th.
The Lodge of Nations was the centerpiece of the Parliament’s Indigenous programme and was a beautiful and important Indigenous sacred space. A first-of-its-kind at the Parliament, the Lodge served as the home away from home to many Indigenous traditional leaders and Faith Keepers who carry the sacred knowledge from the many Indigenous spiritual ways from around the world. This sacred space featured morning ceremonies, tobacco offerings, pipe ceremonies, and programs from various Indigenous traditional societies.
The Lodge was designed to be an intermingling of designs of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) people and the Anishinaabe people, two of the host Nations for the Toronto Parliament.
Langar is the Sikh word for “open kitchen.” It was started by the first Sikh Guru, Siri Guru Nanak Sahib, and today represents the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, color, creed, age, gender, or social status. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness, and oneness of all humankind.
The Langar at the 2018 Parliament marks its third offering at the global interfaith convening and was organized by the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council in collaboration with the Canadian and international Sikh community. A heartfelt thank you to our Sikh brothers and sisters who provided meals throughout the week.
One of the most exciting new elements at the 2018 Convening was the introduction of The Interfaith Family Festival, which for the very first time brought interfaith programming and education for families and kids of all ages.
The Parliament commissioned Spiritual Playdate to deliver 5 days of fun, interactive, and uplifting programming for littles, middle schoolers, tweens, teens, parents, and grandparents. Many thoughtful programs were created with the intention of exposing the beauty, culture, and messages that come from the myriad of faith traditions that live and breathe on this planet.
The Parliament’s first Interfaith Family Festival played host to over 2,500 kids from the youngest participant at just 6 months to masses of middle schoolers and high schoolers.
The Red Tent Movement is an international grassroots initiative that is open to women of all faiths, beliefs, and backgrounds and is a sacred place that honors and supports our womanhood journeys and leadership.
The Red Tent at the 2018 Parliament marks the second time this initiative has been hosted by the global interfaith conference. This beautiful sanctuary space served as a place of homecoming where one can come to rest, renew, share collective wisdom, hold and be held. Attendees offered music, song, dance, gathered in circles, met with others, all while some meditated, slept, or reflected on the day’s activities.
Commemorating both the first World’s Parliament of Religions at the 1893 Columbian Exposition — the birth of the interfaith movement — as well as the convening of the first modern Parliament in Chicago in 1993, the Anniversary Banquet at the 2018 Parliament in Toronto featured the participation of Swami Sarvapriyananda, who heads the Vedanta Society of New York and is a dynamic figure in the Ramakrishna Order, and Dr. Lawrence Sullivan, a world-renowned historian of religions, Senior Fellow and President Emeritus of the Fetzer Institute.
At the 2018 Parliament, the Sacred Space Task Force curated a diverse series of religious and spiritual expressions, spaces, and lived experiences to emphasize the critical importance of sacred space to people of faith.
In partnership with Sacred Space International, the Sacred Space Task Force featured the Morgan Model Collection, a collection of architectural models. This partnership also organized the Sacred Spaces: Excursions Around Toronto where attendees had the opportunity to join walking and bus tours of faith spaces in the city of Toronto.
Additionally, faith and spiritual communities also came together to create “faith spaces” for attendees. A prayer wall and a labyrinth near the entrance of the convention centre were some of the few interactive sacred spaces participants enjoyed during the week of the Parliament.
Art exhibits and films are a critical aspect of the Parliament experience. Communities of faith and individuals from around the world come together to showcase their talent and provide unique experiences to thousands of attendees.
At the 2018 Parliament, the official Film Festival featured over 40 films and documentaries. Among them were documentary films like The Gate from SpringGreen Films, a sponsor of the Parliament, Portraits of Faith and Sacred, Feminine, Rising.
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