Parliament of the World’s Religions makes a passionate call to save the planet


The 3-day virtual Parliament of the World’s religions concluded in a spirit of fervent bonding and camaraderie connecting thousands around the world. From 16th through 18th October thousands participated to partake of the hundreds of inspiring and riveting presentations, prayers, music and dance, exhibitions and displays, workshops and many other unique features all echoing again and again the call to humanity: OPENING OUR HEARTS TO THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD: COMPASSION IN ACTION.

Chicago in 1893 is considered to be birthplace of the modern interfaith movement when the first Parliament of the World’s religions with its ground-breaking dialogues among leaders of Eastern and Western religious traditions, fostering understanding, cooperation and social harmony. Since 1893, six more Parliaments have been hosted in the United States, South Africa, Spain, Canada and Australia; attended by tens of thousands of people from around the world. The program was hosted in Central US time, coinciding with the location of the Parliament headquarters in Chicago, with invitation to all peoples to connect according to their respective time zones..

Some of the notable speakers for this 8th Parliament included, among others: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Marianne Williamson, Grandmother Flordemayo, Rabbi David Rosen, Bishop William E. Swing, Hon’ble Dr. Karan Singh, Eboo Patel, Steve Sorowitz, Lord Karan Billimoria, Andrew Harvey, Paul Knitter, Soraya Deen, Charline Manuel, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriach Bartholomew, Jane Goodall, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Vandana Shiva, Kusumita Pedersen, Baba Wanbe Abinbola, His Eminence Aidul Rahman Muha,, Jonathan Granoff, Nitin Ajmera, Mother Maya Tiwari, Stephen Avino, Atmapit Nemji, Mallika Kaur, H. Ps. Phyllis Curott, Dolly Dastoor, the list can go on.  Students from several universities were sponsored to attend this world’s premier interfaith convention to learn about diversity and interface among different faiths and spiritual streams and expand their perspectives on various issues of concern for our time.

The planning process spanned more than one year by the Board of Trustees. Scores of volunteers were recruited to utilize the best available in today’s information, communication technology to craft and execute the three-day non-stop event with meticulous attention, care, and concern. A sincere applause for the resounding success. The convergence of such diverse range of human beings, for the most part believers of umpteen hues, all of whom in unison, gave a clarion call: “save our planet, save our only home, this pale blue dot in the vast Milky Way,” to a world that is rapidly moving towards self-annihilation as a result of the climate crises, wars for territorial gain and control of planet’s finite resources, conflicts among peoples due to race, caste, language, religious beliefs, economic disparities, and divisive creeds and what-have-you.  .

Strident warnings of even greater devastation and destruction on the one hand and appeals for mutual tolerance, good-will, and repeated calls for forgiveness and repentance were heard again and again right from the first welcome address in the Opening Plenary on 16th October 2021. Religious luminaries, distinguished personalities, globally recognized peace activists, environmentalists, social scientists, experts in almost all fields of human endeavour, grass-root workers–from the United Nations to retired government functionaries–addressed the participating delegates and beyond them all the peoples of the world.

Global solidarity, lokasamgraha, or vasudhaiva kutumbakam, is no more a pious dream. It is an accepted urgent practical necessity. Many who addressed the Parliament whether at the Plenaries or through smaller audiences cried out from the depths of their hearts, some with tears in their eyes, to heed the call of “compassion in action” starkly manifest in the suffering of vast multitudes during the past two years due the global health emergency caused by COVID-19.  Others, both presenters and listeners, were in full agreement that our lives are intertwined, our destiny is common. For civilization to march onward, a resilient humanity must strive for the greater good of all in its collective will and lived spiritual coherence. There is no denying that the world was and is a unified body, yet it is groping for its soul. If humankind is to save itself, it must change the axis of its thought and adopt eco-friendly life-style.

Recognizing the oneness of our Creator, regardless of names or description; the oneness of religious and spiritual paths with all its myriad diversities; the interdependence of all life on earth, its flora and fauna leading up to the highest evolved species—humans the 2021 Parliament comprising nearly 600 events once more committed itself to counter the negative forces of materialism, of relativism, recourse to expediency, and moral bankruptcy.

There was renewed plea to abolish mass destruction and nuclear weapons; to stoppage of international terrorism; the establishment of world peace; to focus on ecological sustainability; ensure equality and justice for women and girl-children. As a faculty of human nature the indispensability of religion and faith traditions to social order have been repeatedly demonstrated by its direct effect on laws and systems of governance. Setting aside the question: What kind of religion or spiritual path? It was acknowledged that religious system should be defined by its capability and capacity of responding creatively to every fresh challenge, whether it comes by way of outer events or of ideas from within each society.

The diagnosis: most religious institutions or spiritual organizations are failing to empower the masses to walk the path of justice and righteousness. The current break-down of society is generally due to a failure to devise adequate responses to new challenges, a failure to retain the voluntary allegiance of the common people who, exposed to forces of thought and criticism, are destitute of true faith. Unless religious and spiritual systems of today stem the scourge of defective ideologies and divisive forces there is little hope for a better future of the world. In this age of science and technology one cannot be called upon to accept incredible dogmas or substitute faiths that the spawn whole continents of our planet. True religion has to be a source of fellowship, the cause of unity and nearness of the supreme Divinity for enlightenment and spiritual well-being.

Last but not the least, a special session was devoted to soul-stirring prayers and invocations in a cathartic journey of grief and mourning to remember all who had lost their lives during the current global health pandemic and the bereaved families. Grief has been clear and present for communities around the world in unprecedented ways since the last Parliament held in 2018 in Toronto, Canada.  Deeply introspecting upon the intractable problems confronting nations and societies throughout the planet the greatest take-away from this Parliament for me was that peoples of whatever race, caste, nation, or religion, creed and profession, are being challenged to subordinate all lesser loyalties and limiting identities to their interdependence and oneness as inhabitants of a single planetary homeland. (1125 words)

Dr. A. K. Merchant  is a social worker and independent researcher. As an alumni of the past Parliament he made his presentation at the 8th Parliament on 18 October 2021 at 12:30 am “Role of Religious Communities in Equality & Justice for Women.” He can be contacted at [email protected] 


Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News