Last week, Aug. 14-18, the Parliament of the World’s Religions returned to Chicago, the birthplace of the modern interfaith movement, after 30 years away to celebrate 130 years of history. The Parliament attracted 10,000-plus religious and civic leaders from more than 200 diverse religious, indigenous and secular beliefs and more than 80 nations. They came to connect and stand in solidarity with individuals and organizations committed to justice, peace and planetary sustainability.

Rev. Patrick Davis

The Parliament is the most important and largest gathering of the world’s religious and spiritual leaders and practitioners, uniting in a collective, courageous and clear reply to the most dangerous crisis confronting the people living on this planet today—authoritarianism.  

This existential, expanding, global scourge is manifesting in tyrants and authoritarians who commit crimes against humanity, suppress fundamental freedoms, subvert democracies and murder the truth with lies. These bullies and despots are pursuing nationalist wars and winking at domestic terrorism. 

They are fostering hate and the resurgence of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, misogyny and racism. And they are attempting to misappropriate and weaponize religions to justify the unjustifiable. 

The religions of the world and its leaders are answering the Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights, the theme of the 2023 Parliament Conference.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions was created 130 years ago to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions. 

In order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world, the Parliament invited individuals and communities who are equally invested in attaining this goal. The objective is for religious and spiritual communities to live in harmony and contribute to a better world from their riches of wisdom and compassion; to replace religious and cultural fears and hatreds with understanding and respect; for people everywhere to come to know and care for their neighbors; and to weave the richness of human and religious diversity into the fabric of communal, civil, societal and global life. 

It is the work of the Parliament to imbue hope that the world’s most powerful and influential institutions move beyond narrow self-interest to realize the common good. This is critical to ensure that the Earth and all life are cherished, protected, healed and restored—and that all people commit to living out their highest values and aspirations. 

Every faith has at its core a summoning to ease the suffering of others and to contribute to a just, peaceful and sustainable world. This past week, the Parliament of the World’s Religions issued its Call to Conscience to people of faith and spirit, and to all people of conscience, to stand together in defense of the dignity, freedom and human rights of all.

Rev. Patrick Davis (United Methodist) is a member of the Interfaith Clergy Association of Morgan Hill and Gilroy, and Executive Director for the Bay Area Alliance for Youth and Family Services, Inc. Davis can be reached by email at [email protected].

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