FaithWorld

GUESTVIEW: Faiths meet at Parliament of World Religions

pwr-logo

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Paul Knitter is the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in New York.Matthew Weiner is Program Director at the Interfaith Center of New York.

By Paul Knitter and Matthew Weiner

In 1893, the Chicago Parliament of World Religions was convened to gather the world’s faiths together for the first time. The organizers had a subversive message they kept hidden from invited speakers from non-Christian traditions: Christianity is the one true faith. They assumed that if all the faiths had a chance to speak publicly to the world, it would be obvious that Christianity was superior. But things didn’t go as planned. As it turned out, the Hindu representative Swami Vivikananda from India stole the show, convincing everyone that Hinduism was as valid a way to worship and experience the divine as any other. The state of the world’s religions was changed forever and the interfaith era had its symbolic beginning.

pwr-buddhistsOver 100 years later, things have certainly changed. The Parliament of World Religions is again under way here in Melbourne, with over 6,000 participants from 200 countries representing every major faith in the world. Now, it is assumed that every faith is valid. Here, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who will speak on Wednesday, is by far the most popular speaker, followed by Aboriginal and Native American speakers and others. (Photos courtesy of Graeme Sharrock, NPPA)

The Parliament as an organization was revived in 1993 in Chicago, with the same name and the same ideal of representing all faiths, but with a different message — everyone is welcome to the table for open and honest conversations. The goal is different as well — to mobilize public opinion about the value of religious traditions and the critical importance of religions communicating with one another.

Even in the 16 years since the first new parliament, there have been real shifts in the public’s view of religion, in large part because of the work of this organization. In 1993, there was great media attention but little interest from secular constituancies. This parliament is co-hosted by the Melbourne city government. Representatives of UNICEF and other major UN agencies are here to present and learn about faiths. The Obama administration is sending a team from their Faith Based Initiatives office. All of this movement is taking place against the backdrop of 9/11. The significance of the different ways religion can be understood are not lost on anyone here.

Climate change debate spurs warm feelings in London

china-climateIt is rare that religion and science find agreement, but that is what happened when Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke at a meeting on saving the earth from climate change.

“The great Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson published a book in 2007 called “Creation”, subtitled An Appeal to Save Life on Earth,” Sacks told leaders of all the major faiths meeting at Lambeth Palace in London on Thursday. (Photo: A partially dried reservoir in Yingtan, Jiangxi province, China, 29 Oct 2009/stringer)

“I thought that was a very good book. E.O. Wilson is known not to be religious, but what this book was was a call to religious people and scientists to call off the war between religion and science and work together for the sake of the future of life on earth.

October a busy month for Indian religious festivals

October is a busy month for Indian religious festivals in India. Here are Reuters videos from three of them.

Diwali, the five-day festival of lights, was celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the country with fireworks and prayers. It marks the return of Lord Raama to his kingdom Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the ruler of Lanka, in the ancient epic Ramayana.

The three-day Chhath Puja, an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to Surya, the chief solar deity, concluded on Sunday with thousands of devotees offering prayers to Sun God across India. Most devotees are married women praying for their families.

A religion board game – satire or scandal?

How much fun — really — can you make of religion?  A U.S. marketer of board games may find out with ”Playing Gods” which it calls “the world’s first satirical board game of religious warfare.” It had its European premier this week at the London Toy Fair and will make a U.S. debut at the New York Toy Fair in February.

Ben Radford, head of the company that put the game together, said in a news release it is designed for two to five players who act as “gods” and …

“Try try to take over the world and make everyone on Earth worship him or her. As a god, you can try to convert other gods’ followers, promising them things like Afterlife, Prosperity, and Miracles. Or you can kill them off with plagues, locusts, earthquakes, floods, and other Acts of Gods.

GUESTVIEW: Mumbai violence brings New York faith groups together

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. Matthew Weiner, the author, is the Program Director at the Interfaith Center of New York. He is writing a book about Interfaith and Civil Society.

When terror attacks like those in Mumbai occur, many people of faith want to stand together despite their differences to condemn them with one voice. Faith leaders in New York, having seen their own city targetted in 2001, quickly responded with a show of support for their sister city in India. Their news conference on the steps of New York’s City Hall on Monday was an example of how faith communities in the world’s most religiously diverse metropolis can join hands to speak out against such violence. (Photo: New York interfaith meeting, 1 Dec 2008/Edwin E. Bobrow)

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, senior vice-president of the New York Board of Rabbis, Mo Razvi, a Pakistani-American Muslim and community organizer, and the Interfaith Center of New York organized the meeting while Councilman John Liu got the green light to use City Hall as the venue. Potasnick worked through Thanksgiving weekend to make it happen and insisted on having representatives from every faith. “It is very important to condemn the attacks…but it is imperative we stand together with one voice,” he said.

Inter-faith outreach in the Hindu heartland

Nashik religious leaders join Archbishop Machado at ordination, 8 March 2008/Tom Heneghan

.

Posting vacation photos is not what this blog is about, but this one has a religion angle. I just spent a week in India and attended the ordination of the new Roman Catholic bishop of Nashik, a city near Mumbai in an area where Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) is a potent political force.

Archbishop Felix Machado (standing at top of stairs) was under-secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in Rome before his appointment. So he invited leaders of all the religions in the city to join him and give a novel touch to his episcopal ordination. In the picture, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist leaders stand behind him as Acharya Swami Sanvindanand Saraswati, who heads a Hindu monastery in the city known across India as a Hindu pilgrimage centre, welcomes him to Nashik.

Michael Gonsalves, Special Correspondent for UCA News (Union of Catholic Asian News Agencies), wasn’t on vacation and he wrote this report on the event.