Building an international interfaith movement

2004 Parliament of World Religions, Barcelona

January/February 2005

Return to Table of Contents
Print Article

Every five years, the Parliament of World Religions gathers somewhere in the world. These events have proven to be the largest multifaith gatherings in history. Last July, 9,000 people of many faiths from many parts of the world converged upon Barcelona, Spain, to dialogue, sing, meditate, celebrate, meet and rejoice together.

Social justice was very much a concern of this Parliament that dealt with four pressing global issues:

  • supporting refugees worldwide
  • eliminating the international debt owed by developing countries
  • overcoming religiously-motivated violence
  • increasing access to clean water

The seven-day conference featured more than 500 workshops dealing with all aspects of the fields of religion, spirituality and social justice. Two members of the Scarboro Missions Interfaith Desk, along with numerous other Canadians, attended the global interfaith gathering.

"The conference site on the edge of the Mediterranean was a sea of people in the clothing, voices, faces and colours of the world-the orange robes of Buddhist monks mingling with the white gowns of the Sufis-all stopping to greet each other in peace, smiling, spontaneously hugging,"said Raheel Raza, a Toronto Muslim who collaborates with Scarboro's Interfaith Desk. "As I looked around me, I was filled with peace and the wonder of being there."

The Parliament of World Religions is one of a growing number of international interfaith organizations. These groups, which are springing up all over the world, are committed to working together on a global scale because they realize that, in the words of Catholic theologian Hans Kung, "there will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions."

"People ask me, 'Is there hope for peace?'" said Raheel Raza. "After experiencing Barcelona, I say, 'Peace will happen when we exchange weapons of mass destruction for words of wisdom.'"

For summaries of the workshops, visit the Web site of the Council for a Parliament of World Religions: Scarboro Missions and the Encounter World Religions Centre have produced a powerpoint slide presentation featuring the events of the Barcelona Parliament of World Religions. To view this presentation, contact J.W. Windland at Tel: 1-888-411-7537, Ext. 22, or E-mail:

Return to Table of Contents
Print Article