Day 2: The Parliament of The World's Religions

A personal experience about a student's journey to Utah to experience an incredible and life changing event. An event in which 10,000 people from 50+ faiths come together as one, praying for peace and justice for all humanity.

  As I walked down the halls of Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, I heard the chanting of the Buddhist monks. Attending the Parliament of The World’s Religions was a truly inspiring feeling. Regardless of what tradition we come from, we all worship one God. I believe that the different faith traditions are just different paths to the same end goal: becoming a better person, serving humanity, and loving one another. This Parliament strengthened my faith because of some of the talks that were given by leaders from my faith tradition (Islam) and meeting other Muslims from all over the world, but it also strengthened my drive to work for a more peaceful world, and my belief that all of the great religions came from one source and there is no one path to God. I personally like to take in different ideas from faiths and apply it to my own life, like the ideology of non-violence of the Jains, the ideas of love and respect from the Sikhs, Christianity, and many other faiths. 

On Saturday morning, I went to a Sikh ceremony that was a very enlightening experience for me. Hearing the tabla drums and the harmonium play as everyone engaged in Keertan (congregational singing) was wonderful. I don’t know that much about the Sikh faith, but after interacting with them over the past two days, I am interested in learning more about their faith. It was very admirable that the Sikh community provided Langar (free food) to everyone at the Parliament. Serving Langar is part of the Sikh religious tradition and, in my understanding, a way of worshipping God. I really enjoyed this Parliament because of the chance I had to meet people from different faiths from all over the world. It was truly an eye opening experience. I had the chance to ask questions and to learn more about other people’s religious beliefs. 

The Plenary on War, Violence, and Hate Speech was very uplifting. Different religious leaders and peace activists such as Dr. Vishwanath Karad of the Hindu faith, Dr. Tariq Ramadan of the Muslim faith, His Holiness Dr. Vasanth Vijayi Maharaj, Karen Armstrong, Mairead Maguire, Jane Goodall and various others. All of our religions call us to take care of this earth as our home. Dr. John L. Esposito discussed how we all should actively work to counter Islamophobia, which has risen in this country. Allan Boesak, who is a South African Dutch Reformed Church cleric said a very memorable statement: God will ask you on the Day of Judgement, “Where are your wounds? Was there nothing worth fighting for on earth?” In order to create a more peaceful and just world, we need to be willing to be scrutinized by those who do not want peace. Karen Armstrong discussed how people tend to blame religion for all the world’s problems. Nationalism has become the religion of the new age instead of “traditional religion”. Many of the worst acts in history were done not in the name of religion, but in the name of nationalism. The World Wars grew out of the nationalistic ideology. The plenary was one of the most inspiring events of the day. I feel ready and inspired to go forth and make a change in the world, even if it is small. It saddens me to see that so many people in this world have so little and have to go through so much torture and so many nightmares (what is going on in the Middle East with Syria and other parts of the world), while people in the developed countries go through much less.

This Parliament has changed my life and I hope that I will never forget the inspiring talks that were given here and all the wonderful people from different faith traditions I have met. To sum up all the things that have been emphasized and have been uplifting and important messages to me in this Parliament: we are all one human race, we are all brothers and sisters and we must all work towards building a more peaceful world. If one person suffers, it is like the whole of humanity suffers. I believe with prayer and with God’s guidance, human kind will be able to stop this cycle of violence. That is why the interfaith movement is so important. If we do not dialogue with people of different faiths and stay in our own faith and be close minded, we will not learn more about each other and we cannot come together as one human race. All of the world’s great religions teach love, kindness, and respect, and it is time that we follow the commands of the great prophets and messengers of God. Whatever you may call God: Waheguru, Allah, Brahma, or Ahura Mazda, He is one and hears all our prayers. May God grant us all peace, and may this earth be granted protection from all harm and catastrophe and may all of human kind be taught to treat each other as brothers and sisters in humanity. We. Are. One.