East London, South Africa
Hundreds of spiritual and religious leaders from around the world are expected in South Africa in December to take part in a major gathering of theologians and representatives of the world’s main religions. Between 6,000 and 8,000 participants are expected at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, which will take place in a picturesque setting at the foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, from Dec. 1 to 8. According to the organizers, the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of World Religions, the gathering will be more than a scholarly interreligious dialogue ? it will also be a celebration and joyful sharing of different faiths by salt-of-the-earth, grass-roots believers. The Parliament ? described as a “non-legislative, educational and celebratory international gathering across credal, racial and national lines” ? follows a similar gathering in Chicago in 1993. That event recalled a historic inter-faith meeting 100 years earlier in the same city, the first formal meeting between religions from East and West. Among the hundreds of religious leaders expected at the Cape Town gathering are: the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists world-wide; Dr Abdullah Omar Nasseef of Saudi Arabia, president of the World Muslim Congress; Sir Sigmund Sternberg of London, from the International Conference of Christians and Jews; Maha Ghosananda, Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Buddhism; Master Hsying Yun of Taiwan, founder of the Fo Kuang Shan Buddhist Order; Christian theologian Hans Kung from Germany; renowned Hindu leader Swami Chidananda of India; and Christian feminist theologian Chung Hyun Kyung of South Korea. Jane Kennedy, the Parliament’s media liaison officer in Cape Town, said, “we want to honour and fall in love with our differences, and see God in our differences.” The gathering will bring together not only theologians and academics, but also lay people. According to organizers, South Africa was chosen because it offers a strong symbolism, experiencing a renaissance after its successful peaceful transition from apartheid. “South Africa’
s history of adversity and courage has given rise to a phenomenal process of transformation, which is both a model and a source of hope for the peoples of the Earth,” according to council officials in Chicago. “There is perhaps no better place for the last great religious and spiritual gathering of the 20th century.” The council is a non-profit organization governed by a board of local, national and international trustees representing diverse religious and spiritual communities. It is supported by contributions from individuals, religious and spiritual communities and foundations and by fund-raising activities.