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  • The 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions
  • Jim Kenney

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) is delighted to announce the convening of the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions, December 1–8, 1999, in Cape Town, South Africa. Nestled against Table Mountain and overlooking the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Cape Town is home to many races, religious traditions, and cultural varieties. Religious, spiritual, cultural, and civic leaders, groups, and communities there are working in partnership with CPWR to make the 1999 Parliament an unforgettable gift to the world.

In the spring of 1988 the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was formed with the commitment to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the first Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in 1893. The 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions was one of the most extraordinary interreligious events of all time. Almost eight thousand participants came together to celebrate the commonalties and diversities of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions and to explore religious and spiritual responses to the critical issues that face the human community.

Part of the legacy of the 1993 Parliament was a widespread conviction on the part of religious and spiritual leaders and participants from the grassroots that what had taken place in Chicago must continue. The parliament testified to a new spirit emerging around the world, characterized by new interreligious encounter, understanding, and cooperation. In the wake of the 1993 event, the council began to shape two initiatives designed to foster interreligious dialogue and shared action in metropolitan Chicago and around the globe. To highlight and punctuate these ongoing efforts, CPWR made a powerful commitment that, beginning in 1999 and every five years thereafter, a new parliament would be convened somewhere in the world.

The diversity of the global community has never been more apparent. Today, metropolitan centers like Chicago exhibit an unprecedented variety of cultures. Advanced technology and communications have transformed the world into a global village. As a consequence, awareness of the richness of the human family in its racial, ethnic, cultural, social, religious, and spiritual dimensions is growing worldwide. The beauty and promise of this diversity is that we are mysteries and opportunities to one another. We are strangers who can become neighbors and friends. Simply in sharing who we are with each other, we all can broaden our horizons, deepen our [End Page 201] understandings, and get in touch with new sources of compassion and vision, courage and hope.

At a Parliament of the World’s Religions, people from around the world—teachers, scholars, leaders, believers, and practitioners—come together to experience astonishing spiritual and cultural variety, to exchange insights, to share wisdom, to celebrate their unique religious identities; in short, to be amazed, delighted, and inspired. At the same time, participants wrestle with the critical issues facing the global community, learning about the world situation, and seeking the moral and ethical convergence that leads to shared commitment and action.

The Parliament experience unfolds as a spectacular opening ceremony welcomes thousands of adherents of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. In the days that follow, participants eagerly engage in interreligious encounter and education through lectures and workshops, plenary sessions, and performances. In shared observances, meditation, and prayer, persons from all walks of life find inspiration and renewal. And in chance meetings in corridors and on the street, each finds that the world is paradoxically both a smaller and a richer place than she or he ever imagined.

In a period of heightened spiritual interest and renewal, the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Cape Town, South Africa, will offer countless opportunities for discovery and inquiry. Participants will be able to touch their own traditions at deeper levels. They can explore the origins, development, and perspectives of unfamiliar paths. They can compare and contrast beliefs and practices from widely separated places and times. Through lectures, workshops, and plenary sessions, through worship, prayer, or meditation, and through chance meetings with people from around the world, the parliament event will offer everything from occasions for personal spiritual growth and exposure to transformative approaches to social engagement to new friendships and an...

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pp. 201-204
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