In the modern continuation of an event held in 1893, more than 5,000 participants from some 80 countries, with members of religions including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and Baha'i, as well as indigenous faiths and traditions, attended a week-long gathering — the Parliament of the World's Religions — in Australia.
Two questions posed at one of the sessions dealing with religious conflict and persecution focusing on Myanmar, Thailand and Iran were: How can interfaith dialogue and religious freedom flourish when one religion declares that another is not a religion? and, Are tolerance and co-operation only possible among people who share the same beliefs and teachings of the world?
Growing numbers of people are coming to realize that the truth underlying all religions is in its essence one.
The challenge to all who desire to overcome religious intolerance and hatred is how to live up to the ‘golden rule' that is at the heart of each of the world's religions, urging us to treat the followers of other faiths as we ourselves would wish to be treated.
The havoc that religious intolerance is continuing to wreak in our world now poses a more serious threat to humanity's progress and well-being than at any previous time in history.
At the same time the interfaith movement has continued to be inspired by the vision of a world in which the followers of different faiths are able not merely to engage with one another in a spirit of tolerance and respect but also to collaborate in contributing to the advancement of society.
Everyone is urged to take the spirit of the parliament to support the interfaith movement and combat instances of human rights abuses, to find within the particular framework of his or her beliefs how to set aside extremist claims in order to candidly, dispassionately and cordially consult with followers of religions whose beliefs are different.
Anyone interested in an informal comparative religion study group can call Jack at 826-6197, or write Box 6251, Bonnyville, Alta., T9N 2G8.