Listening Sessions

December 5, 2013

Two weeks ago I was asked to speak to the Greenwich Interfaith Fellowship about the Parliament of the World’s Religions. I started by asking who in the group had heard of the Parliament prior to seeing that day’s agenda. No one raised a hand. I explained that the first Parliament was held in Chicago in 1893. Only one Muslim attended, and he was an American citizen. But there was a large representation of Hindu and Buddhist leaders, as well as Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.

One hundred years passed before the next Parliament – this time in again in Chicago.  Following that, there was a Parliament in Capetown, South Africa, in 1999; one in Barcelona, Spain, in 2004; and one in Melbourne, Australia, in 2009.

It’s easy to see the need for such a Parliament. Humanity is adrift without a moral compass, and this lack is shown in many ways: indifference to the possibility of catastrophic climate change; greed of political leaders; Innocent men, women and children killed by unmanned attack planes; Individuals living in such fear that they must buy assault rifles; and the widespread indifference to all of this by the general population. But our need for a moral compass cannot be satisfied by any one religious leader – not Pope Francis, not the Dalai Lama, not Archbishop Tutu. The Benedictine monk Wayne Teasdale was at the 1982 Parliament, where the Dali Lama spoke to several thousand people in a Chicago park. Teasdale likened the final session of all the major religious leaders to Pentecost. He said, “We were not of one mind, but we were of one heart.”

The next Parliament will be in 2015, and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is asking for the help of people all around the word. Specifically, we are asked to hold Listening Sessions, which will form the basis for the next Parliament’s agenda. A Listening Session is made up of eight to twelve people, either from one religious group or from an interfaith group. Each listening session is asked to discuss two questions:

  • What is the place and role of religious, spiritual, and convictional communities in the world today? How can these communities contribute to a better world?
  • How can these communities effectively join with others to address the challenges facing the world today?

If you feel led to organize a listening session, there’s more in info on the website of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.  

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