Dalai Lama and Dr. Jane Goodall participants in the 2015 Parliament of World's Religions

Janaan Hashim, of Chicago is a founding partner of Amal Law Group founded by six Muslim women who practice criminal defence. Hashim hosts WCEV’s Radio Islam program, a daily call-in talk show designed for a non-Muslim market. Photo by Ellen Vaillancourt

The 2015 Parliament held in Salt Lake City last week was a blockbuster sensation, themed “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity: Working Together for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice and Sustainability.”

The 10,000 participants, who hailed from 80 countries and 50 different religious and spiritual traditions, banded together in shared concern for the Earth and issued a call for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Founded in 1893, the Parliament of the World’s Religions is the oldest, largest, and as of 2015, the most inclusive gathering of people of all faiths and traditions from around the world.

The Parliament, People, and Critical Issues of Our Times

The 2015 Parliament featured a master class of today’s most influential leaders including Nobel Peace Prize laureates, religious leaders, global thinkers, scientists, and interfaith and environmental Activists from around the world. These luminaries included His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Dr. Karen Armstrong, Dr. Tariq Ramadan, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Marianne Williamson, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Dr. Jane Goodall, Mairead Maguire, Dr. Eboo Patel, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Rev. Jim Wallis, Karenna Gore, Sheikh Saleh Abdullah bin Humaid, Dr. Kathryn Hayhoe, Chief Arvol Lookinghorse, and Vancouver’s young Ta’Kaiya Blaney from the Sliammon Nation.

The most critical topics addressed by delegates in both speeches and plenaries were Climate Change and Care for Creation, Women’s Dignity and Human Rights, Income Inequity and Wasteful Consumption, War, Violence and Hate Speech, and Indigenous Communities.

The Sacred Fire and Inaugural Women’s Assembly

Located outdoors at the main entrance of the Salt Palace, the Sacred Fire was lit at sunrise on Thursday, October 15. It ushered in the Inaugural Women’s Assembly, and was continuously tended for the duration of the Parliament, with the final day dedicated to the Indigenous Communities.

Harmonious Voices for Unprecedented Change

Plenary: Women’s Dignity and Human Rights.

Dr. Karen Armstrong, renowned theologian of World Religions, Founder of the Charter for Compassion (launched in Vancouver, 2008) spoke of the misnomer that “scripture is the cause of all the wars in history” and pressed that, “violent acts are inspired by injustice … we can’t make religion a scapegoat for the secular sins of the 20th century”.

International speaker and bestselling author, Marianne Williamson remarked that “World civilization today being predicated on principles that break the heart of humanity … that foster separation and not unity, greed over humanitarianism.”

Esteemed Hindu and environmental justice activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva (featured in Andrew Morgan’s 2015 film, The True Cost at VIFF), fiercely advocated for eco-feminist philosophies and principles on issues such as agriculture and fair trade practices. He said that without such thinking there would be no justice and equality, only increasingly negative impacts of voracious consumerism.

Plenary: Emerging Leaders

With wisdom beyond her years, local Ta’Kaiya Blaney from the Sliammon Nation spoke loud and proud, “I advocate changing not only the human condition, but also in the condition of our planet. In my culture … [we are] stewards and caretakers of the environment.” She then joined internationally renowned performing artist, Robby Romero, in song and spirit that roused the audience to their feet in hip hop style “ …silent no more, silent no more, idle no more… elders and children all unite, to keep alive our way of life …” Ta’Kaiya’s latest single and music picture Earth Revolution will have its premier during the upcoming Paris climate summit.

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