2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions

Marides Santos SSpS

The 9th global convening of the Parliament of the World’s Religions took place in Chicago, Illinois, USA, from August 14-18, 2023, with the theme “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom & Human Rights.” I participated in this historic event together with a group of religious working at the United Nations in New York. During those five days, we lived in a shared joy for what the world can be when people of faith committed to justice, peace, and sustainability come together.

Participants came from the 1,000+ representatives of more than twenty diverse faith organizations who walked in the Inaugural Parade of Faiths, to the 7,000+ attendees that filled the halls of the Lakeside Center during the week, to the hundreds of presenters and exhibitors who shared their unique contributions to the global interfaith movement, to the hundreds of Sikh volunteers who shared Langar – the gift of sevā (selfless service).

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is the world’s premier interfaith convening of civic, spiritual, and grassroots changemakers. It cultivates harmony among the world’s spiritual traditions and fosters their engagement with guiding institutions to achieve a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world. Its origins are rooted in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where the historic first convening created a global platform for the engagement of religions of the East and West. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the Parliament of the World’s Religions is an international 501(c)3 NGO affiliated with the United Nations Department of Global Communications.

This year, we celebrated the importance of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in its home city, a legacy still bringing people to the shores of Lake Michigan together 130 years on. A return to convening in real life enriched this legacy, building on the energy of new people and collective hope. From 95 countries, participants traveled, making this the most internationally attended convening in the history of the Parliament. We celebrated our shared call to conscience, engaging diverse voices of faith, spiritual, and political leaders working at the epicenter of threats to freedom, democracy, and human rights worldwide. We celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Parliament’s foundational document, Towards A Global Ethic. Many people talked about how, although most of us don’t share the same beliefs, we agree on the basic values and principles expressed in the document. They appreciated how this clear statement can serve as a conversation starter and help people connect, whether they come from different religions or the same religion or are not religious at all.

It was a week of joy and celebration. But it was also a week of recognizing the threats facing our communities and the world. The call to conscience of the 2023 Parliament is not just a public service announcement; it’s a flashing emergency light affirming to the world that faith and spiritual communities are vital partners and first responders in this fight for justice, freedom, a healthy environment, human rights, and democracy.

Marides Santos SSpS