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Plenary on Hope

Through unprecedented grief, there is always an audacity for hope, inspired by our faith. The Plenary on Hope at the 2021 Parliament of the World’s Religions streamed on Sunday, October 17th. Global luminaries explored the challenges facing communities around the world while emphasizing the critical importance of faith leaders in a shared mission toward justice, peace, and sustainability.

Climate action was a recurring theme, addressed by Dharma Master Hsin Tao who reaffirmed the call echoed by Dr. Goodall and Dharma Master Cheng Yen in the Opening Plenary, “The planet Earth is an organic unity of countless elements. However, inappropriate and unchecked exploitation by human beings has begun to sap Mother Earth of her lifeblood, but now she has begun to fight back to save herself. Spirit encompasses all that exists; as human beings, we are inseparable from the natural world, so we need to live in harmony with nature, rather than trying to dominate it for the sake of shortsighted and selfish ends.”

Global security, the threat of nuclear weapons and war, and the systemic challenges of racism, inequality, and violence were highlighted by Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, Dr. Jean Houston, H.H. Acharya Dr. Lokesh Muni Ji, and Marianne Williamson. These luminaries shared heartfelt messages highlighting the reality facing our society today but also highlighting the transformative power of these challenges, encouraging participants to consider the ways in which they can rise to face these challenges from their unique faith traditions. Marianne Williamson emphasized this notion, “Now I do believe there is a critical mass of people who are awakening to the level of crisis and the urgency by which the people of the world must rise up now and change direction. And much of the direction needs to be articulated by people who understand the deeper spiritual laws that have to do, not only with what has happened, but what has gone wrong. Namely that we have so separated ourselves from moral considerations, from religious considerations, from spiritual considerations…”

The Plenary on Hope proved to be the most celebratory of the mission of the Parliament, where luminaries highlighted the power of the interfaith movement and the importance of this Convening. While the featured keynotes addressed the challenges facing the planet and our communities, the resounding message of hope was embedded in the example provided by the Parliament itself: communities coming together in dialogue and committing to action. Karen Armstrong, OBE FRSL, Swami Sarvapriyananda, Zerbanoo Gifford, and Her Excellency Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés emphasized a deep hope inspired by communities of faith and this Parliament Convening, the latter stating, “It is on this basis that I salute and congratulate the realization of the 2021 Parliament of the World’s Religions and this Plenary of Hope. I am convinced that horizontal inclusive interfaith dialogue such as the one we are having today contributes to the promotion of tolerance, understanding, and fraternity among nations and cultures, and to the construction of more peaceful and sustainable societies.

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