World's Largest Interreligious Gathering to Convene In Spain

( [email protected] ) May 26, 2004 10:44 AM EDT

Nearly five months after the March 11 terrorist attack on Madrid, the world’s largest interreligious gathering will convene in Spain for the 2004 Parliament of the World’s religion. The event will take place in Barcelona July 7-13 and is expected to draw thousand of people of faith from around the world.

The event, last held in Cape Town, South Africa in 1999 will be the fourth Parliament ever held, and the first since the September 11 tragedy. “The first Parliament was held on September 11, 1893, a date that now, along with March 11, is inexorably linked to the tragic terrorist attacks that have shown the world the global danger of religious extremis,” said Rev. Dr. William E. Lesher, Chair of the Council’s Board of Trustees. “Such tragedy and misunderstanding requires both a local and global response that is hopeful and cooperative in nature.”

The Parliament is set to examine how to overcome religiously motivate violence and to forge new pathways to peace in the new age of international terrorism. It will ask it’s 7,000 to 12,00 international attendees to commit to taking home "simple and profound" acts that benefit their local communities in four areas: overcoming religiously motivated violence, supporting refugees worldwide, increasing access to clean water and eliminating international debt for developing countries.

"The Barcelona Parliament is not about the unity of world religions but about a search for harmony among them," said Lesher. "Instead of seeking consensus, we ask attendees to find points of convergence in their beliefs and values and to turn those commonalities into real actions within their communities."

As part of its theme, "Pathways to Peace: The Wisdom of Listening, the Power of Commitment," experts will train 2,000 of the Parliament attendees in how to perform these acts in their own diverse communities. Additionally, the Parliament will offer more than 400 programs, performances and lectures.

The Parliament will also be the occasion of the first-ever Paul Carus Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Interreligious Movement, a $50,000 prize given to an individual, community or organization that demonstrates exemplary and visionary efforts in promoting interreligious harmony and cooperation. The award is in memory of Dr. Paul Carus, a pioneer in the interreligious movement and a world-renowned scholar, writer and publisher in the fields of religion, philosophy and science.

The Parliament is organized by the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions in partnership with the Universal Forum of Cultures - Barcelona 2004, a 141-day event that includes 40 congresses and "dialogues" on conditions of peace, cultural diversity and sustainable development.

"The world has never before seen an international event on the scale of the Forum that is dedicated to open, innovative participation from all cultures," said Mireia Belil, Director of the Forum Dialogues. "Five million people are expected to participate in approximately 45 'dialogues' or themes, and the Parliament of the World's Religions is a signature event with a long history of providing inspirational opportunities for attendees to engage one another and work towards peace."

The Parliament is also organized in association with the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia, a non-governmental organization dedicated to international peace and cooperation through the promotion of dialogue and collaboration.