Plenary On Grief

Grief has been clear and present for communities around the world in unprecedented ways since the Parliament last gathered. At the Plenary on Grief at the 2021 Parliament of the World’s Religions streamed on Sunday, October 17th, inspiring voices guided a cathartic journey on the sacredness of grief and mourning.

Diverse faith and spiritual leaders shared prayers and reflections on different expressions of grief. Grief for the planet and the challenges it faces, especially within the context of the environmental crisis, was conceptualized by Rev. Dr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam who challenged participants to explore 5 C’s of grief: cry, compassion, contrition, caring, and creation. Concluding with a special call to action in which he prayed, “…that our meeting, our plenary today, as we grieve over the climate crisis, may help us to listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. That we are moved by compassion, that we are contrite of the ecological sins that we are committing, then we move towards care. And all this is possible when we see Earth as God’s creation.”

Grief for communities and the social challenges entrenched within them were expertly addressed by keynotes from Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas and Most Respected Muni Shri 108 Praman Sagar Ji Maharaj. Reflecting from different faith perspectives and from different continents, these inspiring individuals highlighted the viruses of racism and extremism. They encouraged participants to acknowledge the deep societal issues of white supremacy and religious fanaticism, and invited them to explore the ways they can serve as agents of change to mitigate these issues. The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas conceptualized it in this way, “And so it is, in this time of global protests and reckoning if you will for a more just society and world, one free from the pervasive breach of our humanity that is White supremacy. It is in this time that we must ask ourselves what it means for us to be religious and faith leaders.”

The most recurrent emphasis of grief was that for our communities and those lost; Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, Sirena Huang, and the Gospel for Teens Choir shared moving musical performances to encourage somber reflection. Rev. Barbara Becker, Rt. Rev. David Oliver Kling, and Rev. Angie Buchanan in turn shared deep reflections on loss and mourning, sharing their expertise on how faith and community play a critical role in alleviating grief.

The Grief Plenary concluded with a moving IN MEMORIAM visual, sharing the images and names of members of the global community who lost their lives between the 2018 and 2021 Parliaments. Inspired by this, participants began naming their own lost and sharing deep condolences with those who remain.


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The Parliament of the World's Religions is headquartered in the City of Chicago, the traditional homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Nations, and other tribes such as the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Sac, and Fox. 

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