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The interfaith gathering originated in Chicago in 1893 (Supplied)

More than 6000 people representing scores of religions and belief systems are expected to convene in Chicago this week for what organisers bill as the world’s largest gathering of interfaith leaders. Source: NCR Online.

For the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the week-long event marks a return to its roots – the organisation was founded in Chicago in 1893. In the past 30 years, it has convened six times, most recently in Toronto in 2018.

Past gatherings have drawn participants from more than 80 nations. This week’s speakers and presenters will represent Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Baha’i, Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Indigenous religions, paganism and other beliefs.

This year’s theme is “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights,” with a focus on combating authoritarianism around the world. Topics on the agenda include climate change, human rights, food insecurity, racism and women’s rights.

The parliament has no formal powers. And for all its diversity and global scope, it is not ideologically all-encompassing. Its participants, by and large, share a progressive outlook; conservative Catholics, evangelicals and Muslims — among others — have not embraced the movement.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the Catholic archbishop of Chicago, is among the scheduled speakers this week. He has been urging Catholics in the archdiocese to engage in the event, saying it is in harmony with key priorities of Pope Francis.

The gathering “is an opportunity to live out the Holy Father’s teaching that a core part of our identity as Catholics involves building friendship between members of different religious traditions,” Cardinal Cupich said in a message to the archdiocese last month. “Through our sharing of spiritual and ethical values, we get to know one another.”


A throng of interfaith leaders to focus on combating authoritarianism at global gathering in Chicago (NCR Online)