September 18 – September 26, 2018
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November 3, 2015
The following words of blessing by ‘Indigenous Grandmothers’ were offered to attendees at the opening session of the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 14-18.
“May we be learners and teachers of one another.”
“There is no line between any of us because we share the same elements: water, air, fire and food.”
“May we as humans plant the seeds of love on your sacred ground.”
“We are all indigenous people of earth.”
We were thankful to share in this remarkable gathering with our daughters, Catherine and Olivia. Almost 10,000 representatives from over 80 countries and over 50 spiritual traditions joined together in a shared commitment – “seeking paths for a just, peaceful and sustainable future for all.”
A vast array of sights, smells and sounds greeted us each day. Buddhists monks from Tibet meticulously crafted a sand painting known as ‘dul-tson-kyil-khor’ in the entrance hall over the course of the conference and a Sikh luncheon meal was offered free each day to all 9,500 participants as a radical show of hospitality. Drumming circles, sacred dances and songs, and an indigenous people’s ceremony of sacred fire were just a few of the spiritual practices we participated in during the conference.
The plenary sessions and daily workshops focused on the themes of gender equality; care of the earth; poverty and income inequality; war, violence and hate; and indigenous people. Speakers including Jane Goodall, Allan Boesak, Michael Barnard Beckwith, Jim Wallace, Eboo Patel, Karen Armstrong, Dianna Butler Bass, Rabbi David Sapperstien, Valarie Kauer, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Tariq Ramadan, Marianne Williamson, Brian McLaren and a host of others, well known and unknown, blessed, challenged and inspired us. BPFNA member Isabel Docampo helped lead two excellent workshops entitled ‘Cultivating Peace Through a Women’s Interfaith Dialogue’ and ‘Reclaiming the Divine Feminine’.
Some of our most memorable quotes include the following:
“Compassion is not a nice idea; it is an urgent global necessity.” (Karen Armstrong).
“Forgiveness is not forgetting; it is freedom from hate.” (Valarie Kaur).
“The thing extremists fear most is not bombs from drones, but girls reading books.” (David Sapperstien).
“Passionate, free thinking women have never been approved of by the religions of the world, because passionate, free-thinking women raise passionate, free-thinking children who are difficult to manipulate and almost impossible to control!” (Marianne Williamson).
Catherine and Olivia enjoyed the focus on young adults with sessions led by Eboo Patel, Valarie Kaur and other ‘emerging leaders’. Catherine was moved and empowered by listening to women from around the world involved in a variety of social justice concerns. “I’m excited as a young person to learn about issues on a global scale from people from so many faith backgrounds…I’m incredibly fortunate to live in a time when I can pursue so many possible paths…I’m happy to be a part of an organization like BPFNA that that has already introduced me to many of the same issues addressed at this conference.”
One of Olivia’s favorite speakers, Valarie Kaur, spoke from her experience as a Sikh, a wife, a mother, and a human rights lawyer and a filmmaker. She discussed the incredible forgiveness shown by the families and victims after the shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and advocated for a greater understanding of the many cultures that make up the United States. She said, “It is unfair to live in a country where brown bodies are treated as terrorists, indigenous bodies are treated as savage, Hispanic bodies are treated as illegal, trans bodies are treated as immoral, and women’s bodies are treated as objects.” It was an incredibly powerful moment in which the stereotypes that our society is based around were called out and challenged.
We were inspired by our experiences at the Parliament of the World’s Religions and came away even more committed to the necessity of interfaith dialogue as a means to address our world’s problems and celebrate our world's possibilities.