Global, interfaith partnerships form at 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions

October 26, 2015
Photo courtesy the Iliff School of Theology
Story submitted by the Rev. Paul Kottke
District Superintendent, Metropolitan

More than 10,000 people gathered in Salt Lake City from Oct. 15 to 19 for the fifth Parliament of World Religions. The theme for this impressive gathering was “Reclaiming the Heart of our Humanity”. According to the chairperson for this massive event, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid “I pray that, in our time together at this Parliament, God will help us all reclaim the heart of our humanity and restore the earth to its bounty and beauty for all.”

There were more than 600 workshops, numerous plenary sessions and worship gatherings. More than 50 religious traditions and faith groups were represented. For the first time, women were the majority of presenters. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) including the Tabernacle choir, the city of Salt Lake, and the state of Utah all worked to create a very hospitable welcome for people all over of world.

This interfaith gathering first met in 1893 in Chicago and then laid dormant until 1993 when it was resurrected and hosted in Chicago again. Since then it has been held about every five years in countries such as South Africa, Australia, Spain and now of course, in Salt Lake City. A group of about 20 religious leaders organized through The Interfaith Alliance went from Denver, including the president of the Iliff School of Theology, Dr. Tom Wolfe.

Some of the notable speakers were Allan Boesak, South African cleric; Dr. Karen Armstrong, Charter of Compassion; Brian McLaren, Christian leader; Marianne Williamson; Rabbi Saperstein; Eboo Patel – to name but a few.

The opening plenary session began with a welcome procession and prayers by the Utah tribes. There was a strong presence of indigenous peoples throughout the Parliament.

Notable quotes from some of the sessions. Rabbi Saperstein “The greatest threat to terrorism is not drones firing missiles but young girls reading books.” (Credit given to Nicholas Kristof).

Farah Pandith “Power comes from a strong, clear narrative. Every narrative must be local to be successful.”

From a session on the violent texts from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Each tradition has texts that have been used to justify violence “Kill them [Quran], Do Not Spare Them [Torah], Cast Them into Everlasting Fire [Christians]”

Karen Armstrong “These texts don’t create violent acts. Religion needs not to be the scapegoat for the acts of violence.”

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb “The policies of self-defense do not serve us well. Self-defense more often than not inflicts self-harm in the long run.”

Islamic scholar, Jonathan Brown “There are only two passages in the Koran that are ‘sword passages’ and yet it is to these that groups such as ISIS turn to justify their political and social violence. ISIS is not Islamic, in spite of their desires to appear Muslim. Hundreds of Muslim scholars and Imams worldwide have denounced ISIS, (see the website

As I wandered the enormous hallways of the Salt Palace filled with people of every faith expression, hearing the sounds of a variety of chants and music drift through the air, I could not help but wonder what General Conference would be like if have something so simple as chanting would fill the hallways in Portland.