Report from the Parliament of the World’s Religions (Oct. 2015, Salt Lake City)

Alan and Rosemary Goto, Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin, with Bishop Eric Matsumoto in Salt Lake City. Alan provides the following report.

With the urging and assistance of the Board of Directors of The Interfaith Alliance Hawaii, my wife, Rosemary, and I were extremely fortunate to take part in the Parliament of the World’s Religions. This event was held from October 16 to October 20, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Parliament of the World's Religions logoThe Parliament invites all of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions (including pagans and atheists) to join together in interreligious harmony based on respectful, appreciative and cooperative relationships with persons and communities of other traditions. The first Parliament was held in 1893 in Chicago and is recognized as the birth of a global interfaith movement. In addition to known faith traditions, this gathering for the first time recognized the beauty of Baha’i, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. D.T. Suzuki, the renown Zen scholar, was one of the noted presenters.

This year’s theme was RECLAIMING THE HEART OF OUR HUMANITY – Working Together for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice and Sustainability. In addition, the Inaugural Women’s Assembly focused on: (1) Responsibility of world’s religions to affirm women’s dignity and human rights; and (2) Share sources of religious and spiritual inspiration for women’s empowerment.

People from more than 80 countries and 50 faith and spiritual traditions came together to learn about and consider solutions related to topics such as climate change, poverty and the struggle of indigenous people throughout the world. With plenary sessions and about 1,200 topical sessions over the four days, I started each day with a 7:00 am worship and self-reflective activities (meditation, tai chi and hatha yoga), then participated in various sessions dealing with homelessness, indigenous people and the work of small local community action groups. The session presenters were excellent with experiential knowledge and participants shared their experiences with mutual respect, mindfulness and compassion.

The Parliament concluded with a call to all religious and spiritual communities to urgently work for a compassionate, peaceful, just and sustainable world. With this sense of urgency, the next Parliament will be held in two years rather than four years. The location of next gathering will announced shortly.

The Hongwanji was well represented at the Parliament. Bishop Tatsuya Aoki (Buddhist Churches of Canada), Bishop Eric Matsumoto (Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii) and Bishop Kodo Umezu (Buddhist Churches of America) represented the North American temples. In addition, Reverend Ron Kobata, Reverend Marvin Harada, Reverend Ron Miyamura and other BCA ministers conducted short Jodo Shin services for interested Parliament participants.

Reverend Jerry Hirano and his wife, Carmela, of the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple hosted Parliament participants from the Hongwanji. Salt Lake sangha members welcomed us with their warm hospitality and the Hiranos opened their home for a special dinner. We certainly enjoyed our brief visit with the Salt Lake sangha and appreciate their welcoming efforts.

For me, the Parliament demonstrated that religious and spiritual people can make a difference in the world.

– Alan Goto, Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin