Each time it has convened, the Parliament of the World's Religions has brought together people from many countries, religions, and walks of life. Each Parliament is an exciting and transforming convergence of diversity which enriches not only the individuals and organizations in attendance, but which also positively impacts the larger world.
In addition to the hundreds of presentations, ceremonies, panels, concerts, discussions and other events that are part of the official schedule at each Parliament, there are spontaneous activities and special events that also contribute to the networking and collaboration among those of many faiths. This has been the case with past Parliaments, and it also has been the case with the 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions, December 3-9 in Melbourne, Australia.
Although the 2009 Parliament has concluded, the international interfaith networking, learnings, and collaboration will be continuing in many ways. Here are a few examples:
A scroll, carrying environmental statements, messages, and signatures inscribed by many participants during the Parliament is being delivered to the United Nation's Climate Change Conference which just began this week in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Participants in this year's Parliament will be sharing about their experiences with others, in personal conversations and in presentations to their religious communities and to others.
And, many individuals, organizations, and institutions will be considering and implementing some ideas and input received at the Parliament.
This includes some of those who are part of the administration of the United States government.
On Tuesday afternoon, December 8, a special meeting was held at the 2009 Parliament venue. Several United States government officials, including from the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, consulted with fifty invited religious leaders and scholars of a variety of religions and countries. The officials asked those at the meeting to give input to them on improving policy and actions pertaining to the interface with religion in international and domestic affairs. Participants spoke and offered viewpoints and suggestions.
Among those at this meeting expressing ideas and perspectives was Rev. Patrick McCollum, who heads the National Correctional Chaplaincy Directors Association and is Chaplaincy Liasion for the American Academy of Religion. Patrick has advised various state and federal government agencies on religious accommodation matters over the years and also does diversity training for officials serving in correctional settings and other institutions. Patrick, a Circle Sanctuary minister, is active in our interfaith ministries, as well as in religious freedom work through the Lady Liberty League. He has spoken at a variety of interfaith conferences and was part of the Circle Sanctuary delegation to the previous Parliament of the World's Religions, held in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain.
When asked about this meeting, Patrick said "I am thankful that the Obama administration's Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships participated in this year's Parliament, held this meeting, and asked for and listened to input. International interfaith dialogue and collaboration are essential for bringing about a better world."
When asked about the Parliament as a whole, he said, "One of the best things about the Parliament has been meeting leaders from other faiths and creating friendships and alliances that will far transcend this event. It was obvious from the discussions that world faith leaders have common concerns and have moved to a place in history where they recognize the value of working together toward the common good rather than being at odds with each other. This brings me great hope! "
The 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions had as its theme, "Making a World of Difference: Hearing Each Other, Healing Each Other." May it continue to make a positive difference and serve to inspire, inform, and support more international interfaith endeavors.
Rev. Selena Fox
Senior Minister, Circle Sanctuary