Skip to content

Photo Essay: “Hearing Each Other—Healing the Earth” Parliament of the World’s Religions Meets

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a rabbi, an imam and a swami walk into a restaurant. . . .

But what if 6,000 religious people, from 100 different faiths, met together to discuss the world’s problems, and whether it might be better to cooperate than to compete?

When Melbourne, Australia hosted the recent Parliament of the World’s Religions, the globe’s largest festival of faiths, local atheists and fundamentalists thought the event was an absurdity worth protesting. Yet thousands of Buddhists, Sikhs, Moslems, Christians, Jews, and others, passionately discussed faith-based responses to climate change and inter-religious conflict, heard the voices of indigenous peoples, and watched performances by Australian aboriginal musicians. “Surrounded by saffron robes, turbans in many colours, long white robes, rich African patterns, European folkloric costumes, Pagan capes, Episcopalian purple, brightly coloured saris, skullcaps and other headdresses, it’s thrilling to be immersed in this vast global interfaith gathering,” writes Charlotte in her blog.

The event is the world’s largest inter-faith gathering and conversation, an opportunity that comes only once every five or six years. “The Parliament does not advocate or support the idea of one-world religion, or the organizational unity of religions, or anything like it,” stated Rev. Dirk Ficca, energizing force behind the recent Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne. “Our vision furthers inter-faith dialogue and co-operation, so that issues of common concern such as freedom of religion, inter-religious conflict, the stewardship of the natural world, and the treatment of women and children, can be jointly addressed.”

The Parliament is rapidly being seen as a consultancy to world governments seeking to promote racial and religious harmony in their societies. The governments of Iran and the United States, for example, both sent representatives to Melbourne to meet with experts in Islamic relations. In addition, Westernized nations such as Australia, are replacing secularist approaches to religion with the promotion of inter-faith understanding as a badge of a good citizenship.

Actually the rabbi, the imam, and the swami ate at an Greek restaurant overlooking Melbourne’s Yarra River. . . .

An overture for didgeridoo, choir and orchestra by Dmitri Golovko “The Rise of Bunjil,” and “Been Here for Ever” by Peter Mousaferiadis, were performed by the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra.

The Dalia Lama listens attentively to “Auntie Joy” Wandin Murphy, an Aboriginal Elder of the Wurundjeri people, upon whose ancestral land the Parliament was convened.

The spiritual smorgasbord of 650 events offered daytime intra-faith discussions and inter-faith seminars, followed by plenary sessions and concerts in the evenings.

Merrilli Monzon, who attends a New Thought church in Las Vegas, Nevada, shares lunchtime conversation with the Venerable Chang Shen, a Buddhist nun from Taiwan.

Monks from the Gyuto Monastery in Dharamsala, India, use coloured grains and to create a sand mandala. In keeping with Buddhist ideas of the beauty and impermanence of life, the mandala was thrown into the Yarra River at the close of the Parliament.

Swamiji, representative of the Jain faith, is joined by Moslem and Jewish representatives at the flag ceremony.

Two young Saudi women, Wafa al Johani and Lulwa al Soudairy, share halal food in the cafeteria.and discuss Wafa’s upcoming marriage.

Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh addresses a seminar by video. “You are like fireworks. You go out into your children, your friends, your society, and the whole world.”

Whirling dancers demonstrate the sustaining power of Sufi beliefs in concentration, balance, and divine ecstacy.

The colorful and spirited choir from Agape International Church in Los Angeles sing to uplift the gift of humanness that we all share.

An exhibition of Jain art located near the break-out rooms interested many viewers in the philosophy and function of art in the spiritual life of believers.

Three friends from Indonesia—one Hindu, one Buddhist, one Christian—came to learn how they can reduce conflict between religions.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Samoan Choir present a late-afternoon performance of sacred music.

Next: Adventists Present at Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne


Photos © 2009 Graeme Sharrock and the Parliament of the World’s Religions. To see 100 best photos from the PWR, click here.

For more on the Parliament, see…

Graeme Sharrock was an official photographer at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, December 3-9, 2009 and is founder of Parliament Media, a new inter-faith venture.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Spectrum Newsletter: The latest Adventist news at your fingertips.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.