What is the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions?
In 1893, one of the most significant events in American religious history The World’s Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago during the Columbian Exposition, widely known as one of the greatest world fairs. That Parliament brought together, in America’s still-young Midwest, members of different religions. It introduced Eastern faiths to the New World. Blacks spoke before rapt audiences. So did women. Catholicism and Judaism joined the American mainstream as a result of involvement in the Parliament.
It was the first time that representatives of the world’s major religions had ever held a formal meeting. For 17 days in September 1893, 400 men and women representing 41 denominations and religious traditions met in what has come to be recognized as the beginning of interfaith dialogue in the modern world.
Audiences of more than 4000 attended the daily sessions. Several Eastern religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, trace their beginning in the West to their participation
in the Parliament. Those who attended believed that it would be the first in a series of international interfaith gatherings that would contribute to understanding, peace and progress. But this promise was not to be. Religious intolerance and violence have been part of the wars of the past 100 years, and continue so today.
A century later, a group of people came together in centennial celebration and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was born. More than 150 religious groups and organizations are represented on the Council: Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Sikh, Unitarian, Zoastrian and indigenous religions, as well as interfaith and non-sectarian organizations. The 1993 Parliament drew 8000 people to Chicago. Six years later, people gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, then in Barcelona, Spain in 2004. Now spiritual pilgrims from around the world are planning to convene “down under” in Melbourne in December 2009.
In preparation for this year’s Parliament, people are gathering locally to celebrate the spirit of Parliament. The Pre-Parliament event planned for September 5, 2009 on the campus of the College of Metaphysics is one of these.