Nov9FriSalvation Army officers attend 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions. November 9, 2018 by Lt-Colonel Jim Champ
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Thousands of representatives from more than 200 faith traditions attended the eighth Parliament of the World’s Religions at the Toronto Convention Centre from November 1- 7, 2018. The delegates came from all corners of the earth—from as far away as Australia and China to the close proximity of the United States and, of course, the host Canada—representing more than 80 countries. Lt-Colonel Jim Champ, territorial ecumenical officer, Major April McNeilly, territorial secretary for spiritual life development, and Lt-Colonel John Murray, secretary for communications, attended on behalf of The Salvation Army.
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism were prominently on display, but so were many other religions, including some that are less well known, such as Sufism, Caodaism, Taoism and Jainism. The Parliament’s theme was “The Promise of Inclusion, The Power of Love,” with the aim of pursuing global understanding, reconciliation and love. The invitation to listen and learn from each other, and a shared belief in the dignity of all humans, helped create an atmosphere of mutual respect. Seminars, forums, plenary sessions and a wide array of exhibits demonstrated the diversity of the Parliament. Colorful dress, lively dance and song all contributed to the mosaic of the experience.
Social justice issues were very much to the fore throughout the week, with particular focus on the rights of women, Indigenous peoples, climate justice and care for the earth. Canadian author Margaret Atwood spoke passionately about the need to save the planet, citing the continuing pollution of the world’s oceans. “You don’t save what you don’t love,” said Atwood, reminding listeners that in the Book of Genesis, the Creator charged humankind to be stewards of the earth.
I asked Major McNeilly to share her thoughts on the Parliament. Here are her reflections:
Attending the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions was eye opening. Who knew there were so many spiritual backgrounds beyond the major world religions? It was a privilege to interact with others who share concerns about war, poverty and caring for the environment, in an atmosphere of respect and good-natured camaraderie.
Our world is different today than it was in the 20th century. One speaker said this: “The new religion of the third millennium is called spirituality.” Indeed. People are hungry to connect with God (even though the definition of God is varied and complex), and are committed to connecting with each other on a spiritual level.
We do not need to be afraid of our place among this smorgasbord of spiritual expression. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Having said that, we must prayerfully consider how we come to this table, believing that Jesus is the way to God, and that he is speaking his message of love to all religions. How are we to engage in a world that increasingly rejects the notion of absolute truth?
In this complicated world, we must know what we believe and why we believe it. We must be students of the Word, as well as students of the world in which we live. Let us draw close to the heart of the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Let’s be an Army on our knees, seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus, and loving as he loved.