Parliament of the World's Religions
"In each religion there are two levels. One level is exclusivistic and expansionist. That is to say, each religion says, we have the truth and if you want to have the truth, join us. That is the exclusivist, expansionist, lower type of religion. All religions have that lower type. But in religions there is also a higher type, a type which is universal in its orientation, which is all-embracing in its love, which is non-discriminating between members of its own community and those outside. That good, humanistic, open tendency in all religions will have to be brought to the top. It is there. It only needs to be emphasized further. Only that way will we promote Peace on Earth."
- Dr. P. Gregorios (excerpt from a speech delivered at the Parliament of the World's Religions, 1989)
In Chicago in 1893, several prominent spiritual and religious figureheads came together for inter-religious dialogue. In was the first time that the East and West had come together in this capacity and organisers were stunned when 7,000 people turned up for the event.
Swami Vivekananda - a Hindu holy man who had arrived uninvited, became a seminal spokesperson at the event, his vision and words setting the precedent for future conventions, 'Do not care for doctrines. Do not care for dogmas or sects or churches or temples. They count for little compared with the essence and existence of all humankind, which is spirituality'.
The Swami’s prophetic words and revelation, were well before their time because it would be 100 years before the next Parliament of the World’s Religions convened - once again in Chicago in 1993. So successful was the event, that ever since then, it has been held every five years - in Capetown, South Africa, Barcelona and Melbourne.
Acknowledged as being the start of the interfaith movement, for seven days, seminars, performances, workshops, lectures, discussions and religious observances are held, with spiritual and religious leaders and representatives from over 200 different faith traditions attending.
With an emphasis on mutual understanding, dialogue and interfaith friendship building, the Parliament’s primary aim is to demonstrate to the world that people from diverse cultures and traditions, beliefs and practises, can come together 'to engage in respectful dialogue about critical issues facing the world', in the hope of finding solutions.