Report on the Conference Call on the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

Report on the Conference Call on the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

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How Compassion at the Parliament Will Combat Economic, Environmental and Global Violence

Recording of the Call [Unedited]

Speakers: Joan Brown Campbell, Molly Horan, Mary Nelson and Bob Thompson

Background for the Call (provided in the Charter Newsletter) 

This call is with the Charter partners at the Parliament of the World's Religions. Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson and Chair Emeritus Rev. Bob Thompson, founder of Compassionate Atlanta, share how compassion supporters are contributing to the Charter's programming and presence at the 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake, October 15-19. Dr. Karen Armstrong and His Holiness the Dalai Lama will keynote the 2015 event of 10,000 networks from 80 countries and 50 faith traditions. The Parliament is the world's oldest and most historic interfaith event celebrated as the mother of the modern interfaith movement since its first gathering at the 1893 World's Fair. This year, the Parliament is holding its first conference in the U.S. in over twenty years following its last 2009 Melbourne gathering. The theme is "Reclaiming the heart of our humanity: Working together for a world of compassion with peace, justice and sustainability," and focuses on three issues critical to our shared future including War, Violence and Hate Speech; Income Inequity; and Climate Change.


The 2015 Parliament of  the World’s Religions Conference

When:    October 15 - 19, 2015
Where:   Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Call Notes

Marilyn: Interim Director of the Charter for Compassion International. Welcome everyone. The Charter has already been working with the Parliament for many months on the upcoming  conference in October, 2015.  We have several presenters today. Rev. Bob Thompson is Chair Emeritus for the Parliament. Dr. Mary Nelson is Executive Director.  Molly Horan is with the Parliament in Communications. Rev. Joan Brown Campbell is the President of the Board of Trustees for the Charter for Compassion International. 1280752

Bob Thompson: It is a pleasure to share about the Parliament. Brief overview of history and context. The first Parliament was the World’s Congress of Religions held in 1893 in Chicago at the World Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair). It lasted 16 days. Attendance was in the 1000’s. It was the first occasion for Eastern and Western religions to come together.  Here is an excerpt from this webpage about the Congress:  “A captivating Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda mesmerized the 5,000 assembled delegates, greeting them with the words, “Sisters and brothers of America!” This speech, which introduced Hinduism to America is memorized by school children in India to this day. 

Swami Vivekanada became one of the most forceful and popular speakers in spite of the fact that he had never before addressed an audience in public.”]  After this Congress, there was a hiatus.  In 1988- religious leaders in Chicago decided to have another Parliament in 1993 to commemorate the 100-yr anniversary of the first World’s Congress of Religions.  This conference had a tremendous impact on religious and spiritual communities in Chicago and throughout the world.  There was global attendance.  It became clear that it was important to continue the global interfaith dialogue.  

The next Parliament was in 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa.  Nelson Mandela was a featured speaker.  He talked about interfaith cooperation as the key element in overcoming apartheid. The Parliament in 2004 was in Barcelona and emphasized pathways to peace.  It commemorated those who suffered from AIDS.  In 2009 the Parliament was in Melbourne. One of the key features of the conference was to acknowledge the significant contributions of the indigenous peoples and to apologize to them for years of injustice.  Altogether, some 30,000 people have attended the Parliaments since 1993. All people from all sectors- clergy, faith and interfaith groups, academia, NGOs, government entities, interested individuals, varieties of organizations, businesses, etc. - have participated. 

In April, 2014 there was a gathering at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.  Karen Armstrong (the Charter for Compassion) and Imam Malik Mujahid (Chair of Parliament Board of Trustees) met and signed a proclamation of strategic partnership.  This partnership is coming alive- especially with the upcoming conference.

Marilyn:  Any questions about the history of the Parliament?

Louisa Hext:  As one who is learning about the Parliament,  I am interested in knowing about what happens at the Parliament conferences.  Need initial overview.

Dr. Mary Nelson:  The Parliament is an experience that people say changes them. Will have observances, workshops, panels, discussion groups, trainings, and plenary sessions focused on the subthemes.  There will be a music night at the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, a women’s walk for peace through the streets of Salt Lake City,  other efforts to go out into the community and share, etc.  The Parliament is a place to make new relationships across boundaries and barriers, to learn, to spread our boundaries.  The conference is about reducing poverty, hate, and violence, and caring for the environment.   It will be colorful.  There will be Native American drummers, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Mandala paintings, etc.

76871 161125320694323 844084743 nRev. Joan Brown Campbell:  [joined the call late due to some technical difficulties connecting with the call]  I am excited about the Parliament.  It is always rewarding.  The diversity that is present is always exciting.  It is an event that challenges us and helps us understand a wide and wonderful faith-filled world.  It represents the vast world of religion and helps us to find common ground.   Can’t think of a time when this is more important.  Also, the Parliament conference will be located in an important place- on the grounds of the Mormon church- a unique opportunity.  We are looking forward to the collaboration of the Parliament with the Charter and finding ways to promote the Charter.

Marilyn:  As the President of the Board of Trustees for the Charter for Compassion International, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell is a guiding light and will have a special role in the Charter’s Internal Affairs and the Interfaith group of the Charter’s Global Compassion Council.

Open Questions/Answers and Added Comments

Sheryl:  I am on the Ambassadors Advisory Council for the Parliament. How will the partnership between the Charter and Parliament be enacted at the event in October?

Joan:  The key way is that Karen Armstrong will be there.  She will be meeting with the Dalai Lama, etc. Hopefully, compassion becomes a full part of what we do together, the way we treat each other and the environment.

Bob:  We are working at several different levels to bring compassion to life at the Parliament. The ethical expression of compassion- the Golden Rule- exists in at least 21 of the world’s spiritual traditions.  It is an opportunity to share that.  Also, there is the Compassionate Communities initiative. Mayor Fischer of Louisville is a true advocate.   There will be a Mayoral forum at the Parliament- to ask the question- what makes a community a compassionate community?  Another example- we are working with the Green World campaign to call the spiritual communities to re-green 2000 acres by 2030.  Plant a seed in the spirit of the soul of the world-  a seed of hope.

Marilyn:  The Charter will have a number of workshops during the Parliament.  Will focus on the Charter partners- peace, environment, etc.   Have invitations out to Mayors.  Mayor Fischer will be the keynote speaker for the Mayors group.   We have invitations out to the Mayor of Monterey, Mexico and Mayors from Canada and from Europe.  Hope to have other Mayors attend as well.

Girish Shah:  I am Jain by faith.  Part of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council.  Was part of the partner city effort at the 2009 Melbourne Parliament.  What has happened with that effort? 

Mary:  We have not had the staff to follow-up with the Parliament’s partner cities.  This might be a good merger with the Charter’s Compassionate Communities effort.

Marilyn:  We will follow-up and explore the partner city effort

Girish:  How do we reach out to those “not in the choir”?

Bob:  Good question. We will ask people who attend the conference to go home and make it real.  The real work to be done is within ourselves.  We have to impact day-to-day life. 

Marilyn:  The Charter will have workshops on how to create a compassionate community and sustainable action plans.  We are trying to launch between 50-100 new compassionate communities as a result of the Parliament attendance.

Lois McDonald:  Very  new to this.  Strongly considering coming to the conference.  You spoke of previous meetings in the 1990’s. Were there concrete results from these conferences?

Mary:  One thing we want to do with this Parliament is to track the impact in some measurable way.  We have1403839 3 subthemes- violence/hate; poverty/wealth gap; and the environment.   We will dialogue and ask people to make some commitment for action at the conference.  The plan is to try to follow-up to see what is happening after the conference.  At the 2009 Melbourne Parliament- there were some women who said there were not enough women involved.  From that came a group called “Women of Spirit and Faith.”  They have stayed connected and have written a book.  They hold annual sharing times.  This is one example of impact of the Parliament.   On the first day of the Parliament, we will have the “Women’s Assembly.”  One of the participants- UNICEF- has a program focused on hygiene and particularly focused on women.   Another example of impact: some seminary students came to Melbourne and they made a commitments to go back to their communities and reach out and join efforts- research has been done on that.  Also, now the Parliament has 78 Ambassadors in 18 countries.  Yesterday, we had a conference call in which  the Ambassadors shared what is going on in their communities. 

Our Parliament theme is “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity: Working Together for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice, and Sustainability”.  If there ever was a time for this, it is now.  200 college students from the Salt Lake City area will be volunteers for the conference.  We want their voice.   Working to include young people.  Will be including Indigenous People- at local, national, and international levels.  Will have a sacred fire and Indigenous Peoples tending the fire throughout the conference.  Challenge is for this not to be a “nice” conference but to figure out how to tackle the tough issues.  How do we come together to understand and move forward to work together for a better world? We will be setting parameters for respectful dialogue. 

Ilsa:  I am a counselor;  Idea- how to create a group of people who go out and plant seeds in other groups. Is there such a program?

Marilyn:  The Charter will make sure to be available to people to talk about how to engage a small group of people in a community to start dialogue.  Have created the Charter Tool Box to help communities promote dialogue and work toward an action plan. Want communities to continue to be sustainable.  Go to the  and click on “Communities” to find the Charter Tool Box.

Joseph Zefran:  I am from Chicago where the Parliament is based and I will be going to the conference. Proposing a workshop on ways to influence writers, TV and movie producers, etc. to write scripts/shows to incorporate more compassion.

Joan:  I am responding to an earlier point about young people.  Has a granddaughter in the Peace Corps.  There are many young people in Peace Corps- can reach out to that group (especially newly returned Peace Corps workers). 

Mary:  Definitely want to follow-up  with the Peace Corps. 

Molly:  Happy to have a chance to weigh in.  Excited about chance to impact the media.  The Parliament considers the global ethic that was endorsed in 1993 by many religious traditions to be a precursor to the Charter for Compassion.  These declarations are worth it.  They are ways to show how religions can come together and demonstrate unity and harmony to the world.   In 1999 there was an appeal to guiding institutions in all sectors - government, healthcare, business, media, etc.  She knows of a person that works in close collaboration with Hollywood to encourage compassionate programming .  This is an important focus.

Mary:  The Parliament conference will have training tracks- one is how to use the media to get the compassion message out.

The conference will include Karen Armstrong, the Dalai Lama, Ban Ki-moon-  UN Secretary-General, Dr. Jim Yong Kim- President of the World Bank, Rabbi David Saperstein, etc.  There are many collaborating organizations, e.g. the Interfaith Youth Core,  Sojourners, etc.

We anticipate 10,000 people. Now, 4,000 are registered. April 1st- the registration fees go up.  There is a student discount registration price.

March 15th is the deadline for submitting program proposals.  We don’t want people just lecturing. We want interactive presentations, sharing

The Conference Programwhatsnextpeacenext2 1

Oct 15- starts with registration, Women’s Assembly and Plenary in evening

Then, every day we have morning observances, workshops, plenary sessions.

Oct 16- Charter for Compassion focus- Karen Armstrong, Mayors Workshop

Oct 17- Dalai Lama at 1:30 Plenary session

Oct 18- Golden Banquet and Music in evening

Oct 19- Closing Ceremony

Molly:  Sikhs will be providing a simple vegetarian meal for free each day from 12-2.  It is a sacred thing of sharing food together.  This gift of offering from the Sikhs is a wonderful sacrament.

Rev Joan Ellen Lipsky:  Wiccan and pagan communities are concerned about the use of the term “Golden Rule” and, due to these concerns, may decide not to come to the Parliament.

Mary:  The Golden Rule is at the heart of many faiths.  We are calling the Banquet the “Golden Banquet” and not the “Golden Rule Banquet”.  We can get out a statement to help allay the concerns of the pagan community.

Candice:  in Atlanta.  Interfaces with very strong Wiccan and pagan communities.  She will be glad to help contribute to the dialogue and, having worked with various spiritual faiths and pagan traditions, can probably help allay concerns.  She sees the pagan “What goes around, comes around” as aligning with the Golden Rule.

Also, another question:  Can people seek/ask for roommates for the conference?

Mary: Will look into this option.  Have some “home stay” opportunities.

Maureen Cotton:  Lives North of Boston.  In seminary.  There is an Instagram channel that helps promote conferences.  She can volunteer to help with social media.

Molly:  Great to hear from you. Would be interested to talking with you about that.  Here is Molly’s email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Marilyn:  I will also be contacting you Maureen to see if you would be interested in helping with the Charter’s social media campaign.

Girish:  Silicon Valley Interreligious Council- We will have a big group coming to the conference- already registered 31 people.  Maybe the Parliament website should have a section about all the different faiths that have attended the conference and their various philosophies- maybe including who has attended and presented at difference Parliaments.  Another note:  The blog written by Parliament trustees needs to promote harmony and not have disparaging language. 

Molly:  2 answers:  1) the Parliament website will  include what you are suggesting- people can come on and host their own blog;  2)  We appreciate you voicing your opinion.  Discussion is occurring regarding the blog article you are describing.  It was written by Dr. Arun Gandhi, Grandson of Mohandas Gandhi and Parliament Trustee.  We will be considering ways to allow more comments, etc.  Please submit your concerns.

Girish:  Need strict guidelines for blogs on the Parliament website.  Should not have personal politics, vendettas, etc.  Needs to focus on harmony.

Molly: Please communicate with us. The Parliament phone line: 312-629-2990

Girish:  There are the Compassion Games.  We just finished the World Interfaith Harmony week.  Should have a tract at the Parliament to promote the Compassion Games - personal action.  Also, have you invited all the Mayors in US to the conference?  That way we can spread the Compassionate Cities message.

Marilyn:  Yes, we will talk with Jon Ramer and Sande Hart about a 90 min session for the Compassion Games- Interfaith and “Love This Place.”   And yes, Mayor Fischer will be sending invitations to all Mayors in the US and will also reach out to Mayors in Canada, Mexico, and Europe, etc.

Rev Lipsky:  Will there be a way to link blogs to the Parliament website?

Molly: Yes, we will be working on that.  There will be an Interfaith Directory that is self-submitting so people can find groups/organizations, etc.    Also,  the Parliament has done 2  webinars with Jon Ramer about the Compassion Games.  So, they will be included.

Girish:  I created a Facebook page “Global March for Humanity” to unite people to stand together for  peace, compassion.   We need to continue to promote this so that the virtual march goes on. 

Molly:  The Parliament website:   Ph: 312-629-2990

Kim:  From Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Question about spiritual practices and focus of compassion in them.  How to carry on and continue to grow compassion in ourselves?  How will that be addressed at the Parliament?

Molly: Many ways. Subtheme- working together for a world of compassion, peace, justice, and sustainability.   This will be worked in throughout the conference.  Will address self-compassion as well.  The programs will speak to spiritual practice and practical application of compassion. 

Mary:  We will have faith spaces where people can come to meditate, pray, sit in quiet, share, etc.  It will be one of the heartbeat places.  We will be asking people to be in their own religious traditions and to be in prayer.  The Parliament is thinking about the process- trying  to make it more contemplative and personal.

Marilyn:  How do people get more info about the Women’s Assembly?

Molly:   We have launched a Facebook page:  Women at the Parliament.  People can get involved by submitting programs, registering.  There will be a women’s sacred space. 

Marilyn:  Are there places for volunteers- perhaps to get a reduced registration rate for the conference?

Mary:  Now, when you register, you can also register to be a volunteer.  We have not yet determined how being a volunteer will impact the registration fee.  We have some scholarship funds as well.

Girish:  Do you have a 5-min video that can be shown? What is the Parliament and why attend?  Would be good to share at conferences, e tc.

Molly:  Yes,we do. Not up yet on the website.  Finalized in last few days.  Called “The Heart of Faith”. Also, have another video that focuses on youth.  There are “Pre-Parliament events” planned- many will be done by the Parliament Ambassadors.  Others can apply to do a Pre-Parliament event. 

Lesa Walker:  Hopes the Parliament conference can be a venue for people to come together to write and sign a statement that can be used publicly to stand up and voice unity and harmony of faiths when there is violence in the world in the name of religion.

Molly:  The Parliament is very conscious and committed to stand up to violence.  Developed statements for Facebook and media, etc.  Has done this in the past- condemnation of violence.  Looking for ways to make these statements more present.  Please share your ideas.

Mary:  Encouraging everyone to share the good news and register for the Parliament.  Thank you so much!

Charter News and Adjournment

Marilyn:  Thanks to all the speakers.  Encourage people also to participate in the Charter’s Compassionate Communities conference call on Saturday, March 7th.  Also, the Charter has a call on the Environment next week.  Hope to see everyone in Salt Lake City.

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