The World’s Oldest, Largest, Most Diverse and Inclusive Global Interfaith Event
Toronto, Ontario Canada, November 1 – 7, 2018
The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change
The Parliament calls upon peoples of faith and conscience to stand for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. For its 2018 theme, the Parliament drew from movements of goodwill and cross-cultural respect that are embodied in the spirit of the interfaith movement. Over 8,000 people from 80 nations and more than 200 unique spiritual backgrounds attended. Parliament presenters included students, clergy, interfaith leaders, scholars, Nobel Laureates, city mayors, spiritual luminaries, best-selling authors, globally recognized entertainers, thought leaders, state actors, and more. The 7th Parliament of the World’s Religions featured more than 500 programs and events. I was honored to be Interpretive Artist for a second time. See 2015 Parliament drawings. Read more about the Parliament.
I sat on the floor right beneath the stage during all the Plenaries and Assemblies. As I listened, I translated the content and feeling-tone of the presentation into images through Touch Drawing. I hung the drawings in the grand entry after each session. In the course of the week the wall was filled with 168 drawings. Scroll down to see 13 different galleries representing all Assemblies and Plenaries. Click on any image to enlarge. You can order signed fine art prints of an image through the code link on the bottom of each. Please also enjoy the brief video clips that I took while sitting in my spot on the floor. They offer an experience of my point of view as I created amidst this powerful event. The images are available for use via the Creative Commons.
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Photo Connie Baxter Marlow
As the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions opened its proceedings, a procession of host First Nations, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Mississaugas, plus other First Nations dancers and leaders created a pulse for the 7th Parliament of the World’s Religions. Guests were welcomed by dignitaries and spiritual leaders bringing greetings and words of encouragement for the week ahead. Arts, music, and spiritual reflection enveloped the audience. Speakers were Chief Ava HIll, Chief Stacy LaForme, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Gobinder Singh Randhawa, Swami Chidanand Saraswati, Karen Hamilton, Zul Kassamali
The Opening Plenary of the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions laid the foundation for all of the programs, productions, and plenaries that followed over the next six days. At the conclusion of this Parliament, thousands of committed persons of faith and conscience were further prepared to bring about the radical change that our world so desperately requires. That change, however, can only be actualized if people of faith and conscience dare to believe that a far-reaching commitment to inclusion has greater promise than inherited patterns of exclusion and token representation. But even then, the promise of inclusion alone will be ineffective in bringing about radical change unless it is bolstered by a deeper understanding of love and love’s incarnation in life itself — a deeper commitment to mutual and comprehensive care for one another. This is the task of the Opening Plenary: be clear, concise, and courageous about what undergirds this lofty project of radical inclusion and love. Speakers: Wande Abimbola, Jim Wallis, Parisa Khosravi, Swami Tyagananda, Lobsang Nyandak, Ernie Tollar (Performer), His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke via video.
Indigenous Assembly: The Spiritual Evolution of Humanity & Healing Our Mother Earth
Perry Bellegarde, ceremonial leader, a fluent speaker of Cree and the political leader of 634 First Nations in Canada, delivered a challenge on unity to guide our actions to support the healing of Mother Earth. Sid Hill Tadadaho, one of the Chiefs of the Onondaga Nation and a leader in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy spoke of the Great Law of Peace as the divine system to guide humanity and heal Mother Earth. Women’s voices from across the Earth are crucial in this time period and the women leaders shared their strength in supporting the resurgence in their communities of culture, language, ceremonies and wisdom traditions whose values are applied to modern dilemmas. Dr. Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild provided a framework for action by governments worldwide to support Indigenous peoples and incorporate Indigenous Knowledge systems in their governance, economies, education, health, land rights, languages and so on. Finally, the Eastern Doorway Chief, Jim Dumont walked us into the future for a spiritual evolution for humanity. Presenters: Amos Key Jr, Bob Goulais, Jim Dumont, Perry Bellegarde, Sidney Hill, Margaret Lokawua, Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, Manulani Meyer, Naomi Leleto Lanoi, Debra Harry, Tia Peters, Lyla June Johnston (Performer)
Faith and Interfaith: From Grassroots to Global
The second plenary of the 2018 Parliament assumed that people of faith and conscience can be the most effective change agents in all parts of the world, not by embracing a single tradition or ideology, but by drawing on the glorious diversity present in our human family. Moreover, these diverse people of faith and conscience recognize that they cannot accomplish radical change in the world by themselves but must meet challenges together. Interfaith can no longer be a luxury or a novelty. It is a critical requirement of truly effective movements, of radical change, and of sustainable progress. This plenary supposes that the location for radical change must occur, simultaneously, in local communities and on the world stage, and the local and the global must inform and strengthen one another on a continuing basis. This plenary set forth the challenges to be met by faith and interfaith players and outlines the ways in which these challenges can be not only met, but overcome. Speakers: Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Valarie Kaur, Victor Kazanjian, Robert Sellers. His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa spoke via video due to illness.
Women’s Assembly: Women’s Dignity Across the World’s Wisdom Traditions & Society
Expanding on the theme, Dignity of Women Across the World’s Wisdom Traditions, the 2018 Women’s Assembly highlighted speakers on topics of women’s religious and spiritual leadership, dignity, and social justice issues. The assembly featured uplifting art and ritual, and will presented the Parliament Women’s Task Force ongoing projects, which include: 1,000 Women in Religion, the International Declaration Against Gender-based Violence, and the Dignity of Women Sacred Teachings Project. Speakers: Elizabeth Ursic, Margaret Lokawua, ALisa Starkweather (Ceremonial song leader), Rabbi Mariam Margles, Joyce Shin, Michelle Singh, Veena Howard, Rev. Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, Hon. Rosalie Abella, Armene Modi, Azza Karam, Bani Dugal, Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Sakena Yacoobi, Audrey Kitagawa, Phyllis Curott, Kiran Bali, Betty Lyons, Hugh Locke, Susan Johnson, Colleen Hartung, Rachel Mikva.
Plenary on Understanding
The third plenary of the 2018 Parliament focused on an essential step in building strong local and global communities, unrestricted by boundaries of context even as they are informed by them. That essential step is to find a mutual understanding, one that is at least fourfold in character: (a) understanding one another’s beliefs and practices and noting the similarities and differences among diverse religions and spiritualities; (b) understanding similarities and differences in diverse geographical, socio-economic, and ethno-cultural contexts; (c) understanding the issues and challenges that must be faced together; and (d) understanding who the non-religious partners in local and global institutions and organizations are, who nonetheless share similar commitments to a better world. A related challenge of understanding is helping “the world” see and begin to appreciate the vision, goals, relevance, and power of communities of faith in enacting radical change. Speakers: Dr. Tu Weiming, Karen Armstrong, Elijah Brown, Ingrid Mattson, David Rosen
Climate Action Assembly: Care for Our Earth, Responsibility for Our Future
The reality of climate change is irrefutable, and each of us is responsible to make decisions and actions that will shape a future of well-being for humans and all life. The Climate Action Task Force of the Parliament is working to strengthen the growing global faith-based climate movement, bringing people of many traditions and organizations together in common commitment and effective action. We heard front-line communities impacted by climate change, international experts on the Paris Climate Agreement and beyond, and spiritual leaders’ reflections on the meaning of commitment. The new Fifth Directive of the Parliament’s Global Ethic, on sustainability and care of the Earth, was formally presented. Poetry, music, and prayer will inspired us as we gathered wisdom and strength for our work together to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, engage the already occurring and future consequences of climate change, and apply all possible solutions – cooperating as people of faith, spirit and shared values. Speakers: Dr. Tu Weiming, Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, Davi Kopenawa Yonomami, Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, Christiana Figueres, Rachel Mash, Vandana Shiva, David Rosen, Dr. Iyad Abumoghli.
Sacred Music Concert
This night of Sacred Music will inspired, uplifted, and created a feeling of awe and reverence through the music of the world’s religions. It represented old and new, traditional and modern, male and female, and provided a sense of community and sacred experience. It involved both performance and audience participation and the potential of musical ritual for the audience to feel part of this wonderful evening. Performers (not necessarily in this order): Jon Anderson, Roula Said, Yael Deckelbaum, Red Sky: first nations Contemporary Dance Ensemble, Keertani Jatha, Lata Pada, Shahid Ali Khan Ensemble, Countermeasure Acapella choir, Dia, Lixin, Maryem Tollar, Jack Lenz
Justice Assembly: Advancing Concrete Change Toward a Just, Peaceful, and Sustainable World
The Justice Assembly featured a diverse array of speakers and performers from around the world. The three parts of the assembly focused on understanding, reconciliation, and change, with a strong call to action on behalf of a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. Through keynote speakers and panel discussions, the assembly described injustices currently being experienced worldwide, and particularly in the global south. Panelists covered issues related to human rights, justice and law, and positive movements toward action and hope. Performances moved and inspired attendees to address injustice in their own context and around the world. Speakers: Njeri Kabeberi, Margaret Lokawua, Sohan Lal Gandhi, Eriel Deranger, Valarie Kaur, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, John Cobb, Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan, John Borrows, Pomnyun Sunim, James Lawson, Isabella Alexander, Miguel de la Torre, Subhi Nahas, Mazare Rogers (Performer) Vy Vu (Artist)
Plenary on Reconciliation
The fourth plenary of the 2018 Parliament addressed the challenges of a world divided on many fronts. How can those who are divided be reconciled so that radical change will lead to inclusion and love, to greater justice, to sustained peace, and to a flourishing world? A major rationale for choosing Canada as the host nation for the seventh convening of the Parliament is Canada’s recent and ongoing implementation of a process of “truth and reconciliation.” The choice of the Toronto metropolitan area as the host metropolis was triggered by its status as the most culturally diverse city in the world and one of the most successful in achieving an enviable degree of civic, cultural, and religious harmony. In this fourth plenary we received the testimony of Canadians on what has occurred in terms of seeking understanding (truth) and advancing harmony (reconciliation), ways in which the process has succeeded and failed, and what its prospects are for the future. A second part of the plenary examined reconciliation in other divided regions, cultures, and religions of the world, and an exploration of the role that reconciliation plays in generative and continuing change. Speakers: Dharma Master Hsin Tao, Mohamed Elsanousi, Phyllis Curott, Jessica Bolduc, Beverley Jacobs
Countering War, Hate, and Violence Assembly: Peace and Love: Not War, Hate & Violence
Religion’s role within humanity is a storied history with war, hate, and violence. Religion has been properly used to promote peace, tolerance, compassion, and love among peoples, believers and non-believers alike. Unfortunately, religions have been (mis)used by some to obstruct justice and harmony, to practice intolerance and violence against the “others”. This assembly sought to examine how people and communities of faith and principle can work together to move our world toward peace, love, justice, and inclusivity. The assembly had three parts: First Religion as a Source of Violence, then Religion and War, and finally Religious and Spiritual Values Reducing and Ameliorating War, Hate, and Violence. Speakers: James Lawson, Sakena Yacoobi, PL DeSilva, James Carroll, Payam Akhavan, Shilapiji Maharaj SadhviJi, Izzeldin Abuelaish, Mariatu Kamara, Arun Gandhi, Emily Welty, Matthew Bolton, Swami Agnivesh
NextGen Plenary: Interfaith Has No Age – Youth Voices for Change
According to the World Bank, four in 10 people – 42% of the global population – are aged under 25. An increasing number of young people are growing up in conflict zones, and according to UNHCR, over half the world’s refugees are children. With a rise in unemployment and the growing inequality gap, young people are taking matters into their own hands to change the way we work and live. Now, more than ever, young people are the change makers all over the globe, building new realities for their communities, driving social change, and designing innovative solutions. Within the global interfaith movement and at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, this wave of global change makers, The Next Generation, continues to be the innovators and drivers of change within and among peoples of faith and conscience. The Next Generation is committed to building a rights-based global environment where young people can prosper, exercise their rights, regain hope, and engage as responsible social actors and innovators while working in harmony across faith and philosophical backgrounds. This plenary affirmed the Parliament’s dedication to intersectionality, inclusion and intergenerational understanding. Highlighting key issues affecting current and future generations, the programming highlighted the role of academia (the head), the arts (the heart), and advocacy (the feet) within the global interfaith movement. The Next Generation delivers a series of dynamic programs designed by and for young people around the world, affirming the importance of youth inclusion and youth action across faith and philosophical traditions. Speakers: Habiba Dahir, Abubakar Khan, Jessica Bolduc, Frank Fredericks, Eboo Patel, David Lewis-Peart
The Promise of Inclusion & The Power of Love: CHANGE
The fifth and final plenary of the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions drew on lessons learned throughout the seven days. What changes do we seek? How can religious and spiritual communities across the world find new and effective ways of achieving those changes? What short and long-term commitments must be made? How do we draw on our own religious and spiritual traditions? How do we join heads, hands and hearts with religious traditions other than our own? As we concluded this seventh convening of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the challenges that the world presents to us continue to loom. Those challenges were not minimized in the seven days we were together; if anything, they have grown and calcified. But as we left this place, we returned to our individual struggles, those of our communities, and those of the world, equipped with a new toolkit. We will tear down and climb over the walls that separate us from a flourishing world, side by side with our neighbors of faith and conscience. And we will reconvene with the stories of how we conquered violence, injustice, and degradation as part of a movement much greater than ourselves. Speakers: Kanwaljit Kaur, Audrey Kitagawa, Bob Rae, William Barber, Larry Greenfield, Molly Horan