From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
FINAL DISPATCH 1999 PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD’S RELIGIONS
Worldwide Faith News <firstname.lastname@example.org>
09 Dec 1999 08:39:48
Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions
Mim Neal, 312 629 2990, email@example.com
John Dart, 818 363 3984, firstname.lastname@example.org
By John Dart
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA The Dalai Lama praised and prodded the 1999
Parliament of the World’s Religions at the event’s closing session.
The exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader said the world needs “genuine respect for
each other’s traditions as seen in this gathering.” The eight-day
interreligious gathering, the largest mass gathering of spiritual leaders,
scholars, and ordinary adherents, will meet next in 2004.
At the same time, the Dalai Lama reminded Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim
and other spiritual leaders that ending religion related conflicts, poverty,
corruption and other worldly ills requires action.
“Changes only take place through action not through prayer, not through
mediation, “ said the burgundy and saffron-robed Nobel Peace Prizewinner.
A crowd of about 4,000 in Cape Town’s Good Hope Centre applauded those words.
And, indeed, the Assembly of invited spiritual leaders and activists concluded
its 6-8 Dec. meeting by pledging commitments to some 200 projects to address
social issues around the world.
The 1999 Parliament, patterned after the 1993 Parliament in Chicago had the
two-fold purpose of engaging a wide range of religious figures in
interreligious dialogue and encouraging them to collaborate for social change
with government, science, business, media, education and other spheres of
To those ends, “the Parliament exceeded all of our expectations,” said Jim
Kenney, international director of the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament
of the World’s Religions. Registration unofficially reached 7,200 including
350 journalists. Kenny also praised the Assembly for success in creating
“concrete new initiatives.”
The Dalai Lama said that individuals who want to serve others must work to
develop their own sense of caring. “That is the basic thing, and it is
something that I try to do in my daily mediation,” he said.
But developing a caring attitude also requires awareness of reality. “Be
skeptical; don’t believe easily investigate!” he cautioned.
Unfortunately, many people are skeptical about religion and the violence done
in its name, said Roman Catholic Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Bloemfontein,
South Africa, who also spoke in the closing plenary of the Parliament.
Interfaith dialogue contributes to lessening mutual suspicion, and yet
Christian majorities in some nations decline to participate, he said.
Another speaker, South Africa’s Deputy President Jacob Zuma, challenged the
Parliament to raise their shared ideals of compassion and integrity above the
level of “private morality to values of common good.”
The Parliament’s first day (1 Dec.) coincided with World AIDS Day. Large
panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt were unfolded at the opening ceremony and
displayed throughout the event in a country with an AIDS pandemic.
Midway through the event, former South African President Nelson Mandela
praised religious institutions for building and equipping schools and other
facilities for the black and coloured populace when the government declined to
do so during the apartheid era.
“Without the church and religious institutions, I would never have been here
today,” said the Nobel laureate who spent 27 years in prison for his
More than half the Parliament participants were either South African or
American. The Rev. Cedric Mayson of Johannesburg, a veteran of the struggle
against apartheid, wryly voiced his concern that event was “dominated by white
American men” although the 50 religious leaders seated behind him were of
“Our thinking has to be liberated,” Mayson said to audience applause.
Evaluating the impact of the event, Gordon Oliver, a former Cape Town mayor
and co-director the South African staff, said he thought “most people were
happy with the way the Parliament went.”
“The Parliament,” he concluded, “has blessed us enormously.”
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