Reflections from the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

Submitted by Carla DeSola, Fall 2015 CARE Grant Recipient, Director, Omega West Dance Company, and Adjunct Faculty, CARE, PSR.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions was held in Salt Lake City from October 15-19, 2015. Omega West Dance Company was honored to be invited to present “Beyond Words: An Interfaith Ritual for Peace”* for the event. The Parliament, first held in 1893, was created “to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities. Their approach is to promote interreligious harmony, rather than unity.” The theme this year was “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity.” There were over eighty nations and fifty faiths represented.

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As many of you know, I direct the Omega West Dance Company. For the Parliament we presented our dance: “Beyond Words: An Interfaith Ritual for Peace.” The ritual was first created in 2003 for The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. The dancers and Omega artists included Sabine Henrie, Karin Jensen, Claudia Florian McCaffrey, David McCauley and Sylvia Miller-Mutia (joining us from Albuquerque – quite a feat to jump into the dance) Stephen McDermott Myers “called forth the word” Enver Rahmanov was our ritual facilitator, Sr. Martha Ann Kirk led the forum (and with Enver was responsible for our presentation being accepted) and Michelle Mueller, stage manager. Including myself, eight of the above people graduated from one of the schools of the G.T.U. All hands were needed!

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It has been a month since I returned from this amazing gathering of people “who love God” as one of my dancer’s, Claudia, said in wonder. There were 9,800 people at the Parliament, creating a world of good will, acceptance of differences, joy, dancing, earnest discussions, and searching out the “ways that make for peace.” Graces were being showered upon me and it wasn’t until I returned home that I processed the depth of the experience—and I noticed how eagerly I sought prayer, and how easy it was to pray in the aftermath of the experience. The Parliament offered glimpses of a future world of good will, acceptance, joy, and overflowing love.

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This began a journey encompassing much more than any one of the hundreds of offerings by groups from all around the world that I had experienced at the Salt Lake Convention Center. One morning I found myself, involved in a fascinating discussion of key passages from Christian, Jewish and Islamic scriptures that might seem to promote violence, and from there I went to join a line up for a free lunch offered by the Sikhs. That meal is called “langar” — a beautiful example of hospitality in the form of conscious offering of food served in a gentle, loving ritual. As we slowly progressed to the eating hall we had only to turn our heads to see deeply meditative work on the creation of an amazing peace mandala created by Buddhist monks, or be awed by the sight of a silent peace procession led by international women from conflict zones; all this in the public sphere, with the always present background ambience of chanting, drums and gongs. It would take all of us to explore fully this “tent” of God’s peace. We were all filled with gratitude to the Graduate Theological Union for their financial and spiritual support, as well as to the Pacific School of Religion for rehearsal space. Please see http://spiritmovesomega.weebly.com and open blog for photos.

Peace, Shalom, Salaam, Shanti…

 

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