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Closing Ceremony – Opening our Hearts to the Future

The closing of every Parliament is one of mixed emotions: sadness that it has come to an end, joy for what has been experienced, and the promise of what will come. The Closing Plenary at the 2021 Parliament of the World’s Religions streamed on Monday, October 18th guided participants on the final journey for the 2021 Convening, “opening our hearts to the future of our world”.

Prayers offered by Rev. Charline E. Manuel, Dr. Kusumita Pedersen, Dolly Dastoor, and Dharma Master Hsin Tao anchored the closing session in deep reflection. The keynotes delivered re-emphasized the themes that had emerged and resonated in the past 44 hours: the suffering caused by the pandemic, the climate crisis, and the countless global emergencies affecting those most vulnerable.

The luminaries of the closing ceremony exemplified the emotional journey which guided participants through the 2021 Parliament Convening; some reflected in deep sorrow and grief, some entrenched in the hope of the interfaith movement, some anchored in the mission of their work and compassionate action. All shared rousing keynotes that challenged the interfaith movement and spiritual leaders around the world to action. Action today, now, to secure a future for the planet.

Terry Tempest Williams and Andrew Harvey made a point to acknowledge that the emergencies facing the planet are not something coming, they are here. In Williams’ words, “We cannot breathe. This is our mantra in America now. We cannot breathe because of the smoke. We cannot breathe because of a virus that has entered our homes. We cannot breathe because of police brutality and too many Black bodies dead on the streets. We cannot breathe because we are holding our breath for the people and places we love.” Similarly, Jonathan Granoff and Dr. Karan Singh prioritized the importance of compassionate action to address issues of poverty, climate change, and human trafficking. These luminaries shared a deep grief for the suffering affecting the world today and challenged participants to move beyond prayers and messages of hope to make a difference today, in order to secure a just future.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, Prof. Baba Wande Abimbola and Rev. HPs. Phyllis Curott shared kindred messages of hope, highlighting the sacred offerings of nature. They too shared grief for the emergencies facing communities and the planet: COVID, natural disasters, poverty, and war. But reflecting on their respective faith traditions, these luminaries encouraged participants to listen to Mother Earth, to the Indigenous peoples, to the native species; all who can provide answers to the interconnected issues facing the world. Dr. Vandana Shiva expressed this empathically, “We live in an interconnected world and we’ve been disconnected. We’ve been made to believe that we are separate from nature, we are her masters, we are conquerors, and worst we are the owners of seed… It is the link between us and the Earth, it is the link between us and our ancestors. It is a link between us and future generations.”

No Closing Ceremony of the Parliament of the World’s Religions is complete without calls to action entrenched in the unique mission of the global interfaith movement and that of individual faith and spiritual traditions. H.E. Dr. Muhammad ‘Abdur-Rahmān Muhammad Ad-Duwīnī, Bhai Sahib Bhai Dr. Mohinder Singh OBE. KSG., and His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I delivered keynotes emphasizing the role of participants, leaders, and communities in securing the future of the world by eradicating religious and ideological extremism, abating selfishness and moral corruption, and committing to a sustainable life to mitigate climate change. The keynotes from these luminaries highlighted the ethical and moral teachings of their faiths while calling for their fellow faithful to engage in interreligious and interfaith driven non-violent action movements.

The closing ceremony concluded with the presentation of “The Turning Point”, an official Visual Statement from the Parliament of the World’s Religions; the announcement of the inaugural members of the Circle of Patrons; closing remarks from Parliament leadership; and a special message from the Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot, announcing that the next Parliament Convening would be hosted in person, in August of 2023, in the city of Chicago.

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