Listening to the Voices of Emerging Leaders
At the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions, a critical question was who are the emerging leaders? Emerging leaders arrived with a multiplicity of concerns, visions, and facets of identity. Representing the widest range of traditions and faiths: from Atheist and Secular Humanist, "Nones" (25% if the Parliament's emerging leaders are unaffiliated with any religious or spiritual tradition) to Zoroastrians, this generation believes that peacebuilding and the end of war, terrorism and hate are the most important objectives of interfaith organizing.
The Emerging Leaders Track
The Parliament's Emerging Leaders convened outside of plenary programming in earnest, authentic ways. Through Family Groups led by PeaceJam, young adults met each evening to form bonds around the critical issues and constituencies of the 2015 Parliament. These cohorts made commitments on each track and pledged to remain connected in order to remain accountable in their plans on each issue. To enrich the experience of young people and expand the intergenerational dynamic of the young gathering, a Fellowship Program mentored by Brian Burch (Chair of the Emerging Leader's Task Force) rallied student volunteers from Utah universities to engage in critical conversations with visiting scholars.
A Declaration from the Emerging Leaders
...We call upon the youth and young adults everywhere to acknowledge that we can and must help shapre the world that we will all inhabit. We ask that we dedicate our energies to search for solutions to global problems.
We challenge Millenials and Generation Z to use our voices to influence change, both within and beyond our own demographic.
As we amplify our voices we likewise promise to open our ears because we know there is wisdom to be gained from listening to each other and to the generations that precede us. We pledge to adjust our lifestyles to reflect these commitments."
The most renowned Parliament speech in history happened in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk from India, opened the first World Parliament of Religions by calling upon his "Sisters and Brothers of America." He was 30 years old.
On Friday, October 16, 2015 with a sixth Parliament in full swing, attendees swarmed the plenary hall and were invited by Co-Emcees Dr. Eboo Patel and Dawn Maracle to be "transported to the planet of interfaith cooperation."
For the first time, a full major track of Parliament programming was devoted to emerging leaders, drawing upon the captivating energy and diverse gifts of the young adults, now reconceiving what the interfaith movement could and should be, were incredibly convincing on the night of the plenary.
The contingent of "Emerging Leaders" (Parliament attendees under 35 years of age) represented a rising generation of interfaith practitioners whose interests dwell in religious literacy and social action, interests made evident on the robust models of diverse youth organizations like PeaceJam and Interfaith Youth Core. The principal organizing model? Diligent service inspired by faith and strengthened by interfaith.