Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Attending the Parliment of the World's Relgions by Alison Rachel Leonhart

This past Thursday a group of Wartburg West students made their way out of the apartment building by 7am, not because they wanted to be up early, but to hit the road to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Salt Lake City!

First, a bit of background for those of you who are not familiar with the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The first was held in Chicago in 1893, and exactly 100 years later the second Parliament was held again in Chicago. Since then, every five years the Parliament has been held in various places around the world, including South Africa, Spain, and Australia, and this year had returned back to the States. This gathering focuses on interfaith dialogue and bringing people of different faiths together to work towards solving the world’s troubles. Big themes of this year’s Parliament included women’s rights, climate change, and war, hate, and violence.

Now let me tell you, people watching at the Parliament was better than people watching at airports. People from all over the world and of all different faiths were gathered making for a fascinating learning experience. Upon first walking in the convention center there were Tibetan monks making a sand mandala and Jains praying in a small temple. During the lunch hour, a group of Sikhs served a free lunch to everyone, a practice called Langar. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons, were also present and hosted a Sacred Music concert in the Tabernacle on Sunday.

Throughout the four days that our group was there, we all went to sessions throughout the day ranging in topics from the Ideology of Wealth, Inequality, and Compassion to Youth and Religious Extremism to How to Effectively Use the Traditional and Social Media to Promote Interfaith Work.

Attending the Parliament revealed to me what I appreciate from my own faith tradition, the differences I appreciate in other faith traditions, and the similarities between them all. I also tapped into my feminist theologian side by going to the Women’s Plenary and attending sessions on women’s various roles within religion. As a person who is interested in going into further religious studies both the things I listed above were helpful in figuring out the ‘what the heck do you want to do in the future’ process.
Other students reported the Parliament to be eye-opening to all the different types of religions that were out there, especially with the hands-on aspect of learning about faiths from the people that practiced them. Another insight was listening to a message of peace and justice coming from people of all religions. So often violence within religions is what often makes the news, but to see that it is possible for people to believe different things but come together as a whole for the good of humanity was refreshing.

As a side note our group also went on an excursion to In-N-Out and Salt Lake garnering an appreciation for fast food, the beauty of the Salt Lake landscape, as well as some great photo ops J

Overall this trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that I will remember for years to com

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