Sixth Parliament of the World’s Religions
Part Three of Five
Peacemaking efforts in the Holy Land are only a few of many hopeful movements around the world. Why don’t we hear more about them? The Sixth Parliament of the World’s Religions helped counter the media’s negative mentality (“If it bleeds, it leads”) by giving ample time and space to many non-violent movements.
The Forgiveness Project collects stories of forgiveness from around the world into an exhibit called “The F Word” to explore how storytelling, conflict resolution, and dialogue can be used to break cycles of violence and restore hope. Each day of the Parliament I meditated on one of these stories in the Exhibit Hall, inspired by the traumatized men and women who see forgiveness as a heroic act of defiance and a “way to live with the past without being held captive by it.”
The Golden Rule
I love the Golden Rule Project in Salt Lake City and the Formulations of the Golden Rule they collected into four pages from a wide array of cultures, printed in our Parliament programs, and hung in beautiful banners throughout the Salt Palace. The initial aim of the Project was to place the Golden Rule in middle and high schools to encourage students to consider it. Then in 2012, the Project commissioned a professional magician to create a performance that combined the Golden Rule message, anti-bullying techniques and educational but dazzling magic effects. Attention, Magic and the Golden Rule emerged as a positive and transformational experience for older students, with a special adaptation for elementary students.
I’m also inspired by the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable’s efforts to build a Culture of Peace. “You may not be responsible for world peace,” they tell us, “but you are responsible for your piece of world peace and your own inner peace.” They outline ten foundational principles for a global culture of harmony and encourage us to spend just one week looking at life through the peace-builder lens.
You may also want to investigate International Peace Warriors, Compassion Games (“Survival of the Kindest”) with its “11-day Kindness challenge,” and the Compassionate Listening Project, which reaches into the heart of discord and gets underneath triggers and wounds, helping us avoid the Drama Triangle of victim-perpetrator-rescuer and humanize, not demonize the other.
Everyone at the Parliament received a Commitment Book with six declarations related to the six major issues in the plenary sessions. “I will do it. I will lead others to do it!” reads the cover. The booklet provides concrete suggestions for personal and organizational commitments, how to work on policy changes, and how to influence media to become truly fair, socially responsible, independent of corporate interest, and committed to cross-cultural understanding.
As Nelson Mandela said, “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.”
Concern over growing Islamophobia and the scapegoating of Muslims in our country led to my co-founding the Desert Foundation with Fr. Dave Denny in 2005. So I was glad to see the Parliament countering worldwide ignorance of Islam with workshops such as The Qur’an: Proclaimer of Tolerance and Lenience, A [Muslim] Declaration against Extremism, Grassroots Interfaith Initiatives to Counter Islamophobia, and Clarifying Misconceptions about Islam, Muslims, and ISIS.
In our post-9/11 world, many Americans conflate the mainstream Muslim majority with the beliefs and actions of an extremist minority. Dr. John Esposito’s session was titled Who Speaks for Islam? and answered the question with the empirical evidence of one billion Muslim voices. Explaining Why ISIS is Not Islamic, Hamid Hai said: “ISIS has vitiated the very foundations on which Islamic Law is based. Prophet Muhammad had specifically warned against the rise of such extremist groups which, while having the veneer of Islamic identity, will abrogate the very principles he enunciated.”
Professor Robert Pape created the first comprehensive database of every suicide terrorist attack in the world from 1980 until today. In Dying to Win, Pape provides a groundbreaking demographic profile of modern suicide terrorist attacks. His findings offer a powerful counterpoint to what we now accept as conventional wisdom on the topic. His lecture,Why Islam is Not Threatening America, was based on the most scientific research funded by the Defense Department.
We are reluctant to talk about it, but 9/11 is still hurting America. That day inflicted a wound of public fear that easily reopens with the smallest provocation and continues to bleed the U.S. of money, lives, and goodwill around the world. Many believe, as I do, that America’s response to this fear has inspired more threats and attacks and made us less safe. I congratulate the Parliament for its positive effort towards healing our wound of fear.
Tessa Bielecki is pictured here at the Parliament with Imam Jamal Rahman.