World’s Religious Leaders Seek Unity

The 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions met to explore the factors which affect our relationships one to another. Why is it that something so common to us all--the desire to worship God--turns into something so divisive? Surely somewhere within man lies the common denominator which can bring harmony from diversity; collaboration out of self-interest.

The Parliament’s 8700 attendees explored the belief that our very differences provide the strength and ideas needed to address mankind’s ills. A report and analysis of their dialogues was recently published as The Community of Religions (Continuum). The editors, George Cairns, of Chicago Theological Seminary, and Wayne Teasdale, of DePaul University, discussed how the development of a community of belief could bring about the tools necessary to reinsert the sacred into worldly concerns.

It is first necessary to understand how religions relate to each other. In the past this relationship was, at best, held at arm’s length. Suspicion oftentimes led to conflict. A new model emerged with this convocation, proving that acceptance of one another’s cultural and religious traditions could lead to openness in dialogue. It may also eventually enable individuals to assimilate one another’s insights, values and spiritual practices into one’s own inner life. By recognizing and honoring other cultural and spiritual values, the religions could themselves foster the unity of spirit necessary to address the world’s ills.

Toward this end, the Parliament created a declaration entitled, "Towards a Global Ethic." All of our endeavors, be they political, military, economic or ecological, affect the entire globe and require a "commitment to each other, to other species, and indeed to the earth itself." This statement reflects the realization that it is people’s inner life that can spark the change in consciousness permitting us to advance. What does mankind’s inner life require to replace parochial self interest with global unity? The answer lies in the harnessing of spirituality through interfaith acceptance and desire to recognize the need for other-centered service.

Broaden one’s core belief and you magnify a person’s capacity for good. The heart of the matter is heart itself! By recognizing the love of which each of us is capable--both for the Ultimate and for one another--we can form an interspiritual community dedicated to compassion. Not a political entity, but a multifaith unifying consciousness built on mutual understanding, respect, and cooperation.

(Digest by Myron Gantt, Atlantic University.)