As one of more than 300 hundred New Thought folks at this year’s Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, Canada this past week, I could not help but be inspired, even thought the event was bookended by tragedies – the horrific mass murders at the Squirrel Hill Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and at the Borderline Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.
Pittsburgh was spoken of often, especially during the first days of the Parliament, which was attended by about 7,500 people representing over 250 faith traditions. The event was held at the massive Metro Convention Center in the midst of downtown Toronto, which is a beautiful and very friendly city.
This was my second Parliament, and I think it should be called “The Parliament of the World’s Liberal Religions,” because many conservative and fundamentalist faith traditions do not attend. It is a gathering of those who see the value in pluralism and are willing to acknowledge that there are many paths on which we humans may travel as spiritual students and practitioners. Many indigenous communities from around the world, but especially from Canada’s First Nations were a vital part of this Parliament. The area including Toronto is known as “Turtle Island” among those tribes. My experience is that everyone who attends has an absolutely unique experience, with so many options and experiences on offer.
There were presentations by hundreds of traditions, from ancient wisdom to modern science. Plenary sessions included a focus on women, youth, indigenous peoples, and on topics like truth and reconciliation, unity, and justice. Sacred music, dance, visual arts, and other creative expressions filled the convention center. As always, the Sikh faith fed all comers at a Langar – a sacred space where no one leaves hungry – spiritually or physically.
There was a clear message throughout – people of faith must bring our spiritual selves into active participation in the world if true healing is to occur. Our New Thought families were represented in several venues, including the AGNT space at the convention center and at a powerful panel hosted by AGNT President, Bishop Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith, featuring a panel from New Thought and the Alliance of Affirming Ministries speaking on “Global Justice through Racial and Religious Renaissance.”
As we finished the Parliament yesterday with a powerful closing plenary session, I was thinking of all that there is for people of faith in our world to do. As we pray today, let us pray for those affected by the tragedies of our world, but also for ourselves so that we might be divinely guided to proper action. It is clearly time to speak out, to show up, to demonstrate, to use nonviolent means of confronting injustice, corruption, bigotry, and economic apathy in government and elsewhere in society. The issues of oppression, bigotry, economic injustice, and compassionate immigration policies must be addressed, and if people of faith are absent, the outcomes will be sub-optimal.
We must continually remind ourselves, through conversations, spiritual practices, and action – both individual and collective, of the words of Dr. King regarding the #BelovedCommunity:
“Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you were at the Parliament this year, please put your reflections in the comments section below so that more can share in this unique and powerful experience.
FOR PHOTO GALLERY OF THE 2018 PARLIAMENT CLICK HERE
FOR VIDEO by Unity Media Team: CLICK HERE