How can people of faith establish camaraderie with practitioners from other faith traditions? What are the benefits of interfaith cooperation? How can members of the interfaith community channel their common values into action? These questions and more were posed by speakers at the Faith and Interfaith evening plenary on Friday, which stressed how interfaith action can bring about radical change.
To better understand others, speakers encouraged the crowd to look beyond their identities and see commonalities in others. Swami Tyagananda stressed how living according to our values helps us find our true identities, and that “our true identity connects us with everyone.” Dr. Robert Sellers, serving as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament, acknowledged that although some religious people believe they should proselytize, sharing their “correct spiritual path, all spiritual paths are equally valid and must be accepted by interfaith leaders”. Valarie Kaur, addressing the audience via video recording, advocated for the adoption of a global ethic focused on revolutionary love and inclusivity. One of the ethic’s primary tenets is to love others, including strangers, the way they want to be loved, in all their differences. She also encouraged attendees to view the setbacks and challenges facing our communities as the “darkness of the womb, not the darkness of the tomb” and continue to strive for a social movement not of resistance, but of rebirth.
The world faces many challenges, but presenters noted that the interfaith community is well equipped to address
global issues. As Rachel Parent indicated, cultures of love and understanding help interfaith activists view climate action as a moral imperative – a necessity to sustain life. Despite adversity, religious communities persevere. Rev. Victor Kazanjian encouraged us to deepen our understanding of trauma and allow ourselves to weep and grieve, “…for the loss of life and suffering and then we go back to meeting that hate, that violence, with revolutionary love and radical inclusion.”
Leaders galvanized the audience to act on several issues of critical importance. Many speakers indicated that the proliferation of hate speech and terrorism with the rise of social media usage is a significant problem. Cardinal Blase Cupich not only called for religious people to call out indifference in response to tragic events but to also “strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family.” His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa, via video address recommended that the interfaith community work in tandem with scientists to promote a moral and technical approach to saving the environment. Another frequently mentioned issue was the unequal involvement in religious and secular spaces – religious leaders must support women’s rights.
Coming away from this plenary, it was apparent to all that interfaith cooperation can be revolutionary if only people of faith understand and accept others as equals. His Holiness the Karmapa summed it up best when saying that we, “should not only uphold and preserve our religious traditions – we also have the responsibility to increase peace and happiness in the world. We must not forget that we all live together on this Earth.” The plenary set a precedent for addressing major issues later on in the Parliament.
Dr. Tarunjit Butalia took the lead on this night serving as the emcee, and performances from the Unity in Diversity choir and singers led by Ruth Broyde Sharone, the creator of Interfaith: The Musical, put attendees in a joyous mood before they left the Parliament.
© Parliament of the World’s Religions
® Parliament of the World's Religions name and logo are trademarks of the Parliament of the World's Religions.