A Call from the World's Religions

Article excerpt

Religion will play a crucial role in meeting the tremendous challenges of the coming century, former South African President Nelson Mandela told the thousands of religious and spiritual leaders who attended the eight-day Parliament of the World's Religions in Cape Town, South Africa in early December. "We will have to reach deep into the wells of human faith," said Mandela, who stepped down as president in June. Warning that poverty was the "single most dangerous threat to society," he said that the world's citizens "need to draw on the resources of our spirituality."

The parliament resembled a colorful, global religious fair, with participants from more than 80 countries and nearly every religious persuasion represented in 800 events, workshops, discussions, symposia, art exhibits, prayer experiences, and even a film festival. The first such parliament was held in 1893 in Chicago, in connection with the World's Columbian Exposition. One hundred years later, it was repeated there, and now the organizers, the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, plan to make it a regular event.

In the closing plenary session, the Dalai Lama insisted that change will require more than just prayers. "Change only takes place through action," said the Tibetan leader and Buddhist monk. …