Linda and I are returning day from two weeks in Salt Lake City and Moab, Utah. For the first five days we were two of more than eight thousand attendees at the 5th Parliament of the World’s Religions, the first held in the US for twenty-two years. The very first Parliament, which took place in 1893 in Chicago, played a major role in introducing a dominantly Christian America to eastern, Midwestern and indigenous religious traditions. During days at the Parliament we were surrounded by people representing eighty countries and fifty faith traditions, many dressed in traditional regalia.
Twice-daily plenaries were organized according to themes such as “Women,” “Hate and Violence,” “Global Climate Change,” and “Indigenous Peoples.” I can’t even begin to tell you how moving many of the speeches were, speeches begging us all, in many tongues and scriptures and prayers and passionate analyses of current events to unite around our shared values and work together towards peace and justice for all the peoples of the world and for our planet. We attended workshops led by Jain, Muslim, Jewish, Yoruba, Pagan, Sikh, and indigenous men and women; witnessed rituals and prayers led by Tibetan monks, Sufi dervishes and indigenous grandmothers; listened to an international children’s choir and a gorgeous cantata about the southwestern natural world called “Earth Songs”; shared lunch with several thousand people at a Sikh “langar,” a free meal open to the entire Parliament every day—salad, fruit, dal/beans, raita, naan, a paneer/curry, dessert, coffee and tea. Delicious and served with welcome and warmth.
At a workshop on “Trees, Forests and the Sacred” I heard about a grove called “Pando,” a clonal colony of a single male quaking aspen determined to be a single living organism, the heaviest in the world and at 80, 000 years old, among the oldest beings on earth. We went to visit our aspen grove relative just outside of Richfield, UT, a massive root system with genetically identical “stems.” A wondrous sight.
Yours with love,