MORE THAN 6,000 lay and clerical representatives of the world's
major faiths are converging here from around the globe for the
once-a-century Parliament of the World's Religions, opening today.
In nearly 800 meetings to be held over the next week,
participants will share stories, food, rituals and ideas for
improving the planet.
Toward the end, leaders hope to announce agreement on a
statement of global ethics broad enough to garner backing from the
world's major religions and yet profound enough to have impact.
Organizers also hope the series of speeches, lunches and
workshops will enable practitioners of religions now in conflict -
such as Hindus and Muslims - to understand each other a little
But many of those coming to talk about their religions at
workshops just hope to be heard. Tired of critics and journalists
misinterpreting their beliefs and practices, they want to speak for
themselves about who they are and what they think.
"Anyone who wants to come and be a part of this, who wants to
come together and learn and discuss, has been welcome," said the
Rev. David Ramage, chairman of the parliament's board and president
of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
"We've likened it to a county fair. There's something for
Make that just about everybody. Evangelical Christian groups
generally are staying away, but among those attending are American
Indians, Baha'is, Buddhists, Catholics, Confucians, Hindus, Jains,
Jews, Muslims, neo-pagans, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Sikhs
Most of the speeches and presentations will be held at the
Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago.
According to organizers, spiritual leaders coming include:
The Rev. Syngman Rhee, president of the National Council of
Churches of Christ.
Imam Mustafa Ceric, leader of the Muslim community of
Hans Kung, a German professor of ecumenical theology,
disciplined by the Vatican for dissenting from church teachings.
Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, a
separatist black Muslim movement in the U.S.
Mother Theresa was scheduled to come, but illness kept her away.
The parliament will run through next Saturday, closing with a
public gathering in Grant Park featuring the Dalai Lama, Tibet's
exiled spiritual and political leader.
The parliament is only the second gathering of its type in
history. The first World Parliament of Religions was also held here
- 100 years ago. That gathering was Protestant-run and by
invitation only. Only one Muslim - an American convert - attended.
This gathering is different.
This parliament is allowing any group to come and make a
presentation as long as the group agrees with the parliament's
mission - to foster interfaith discussion and collaboration. …