by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen
A little history
"The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world's religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world." (www.parliamentofreligions.org
In 1893 the first global interfaith conference in the United Sates was held in Chicago, and in 1993, as a centennial marker, the CPWR held its first modern parliament event. Members of the EarthSpirit Community attended that first Parliament where we offered presentations and performances, helped to organize a large full moon ritual in Grant Park, and Deborah Ann Light, a joint representative for EarthSpirit, Circle Sanctuary and Covenant of the Goddess signed the document "Toward a Global Ethic," which you can see on the Parliament's web site. (TowardsAGlobalEthic.pdf or here) It was a remarkable experience, and those of us who went brought back both a new awareness and appreciation of the variety and depth of spiritual practices and traditions around the world, and a sense of what the Earth-based traditions such as ours have to bring to the global interfaith conversation.
In 1999 the Parliament was held in Cape Town, South Africa, and again EarthSpirit was represented. Susan Curewitz Arthen and I organized a joint information table for U.S. pagan organizations and also offered presentations. Before the Parliament itself, I was also involved in discussions with the Council in Chicago which led to the crafting of a document titled "A Call to our Guiding Institutions," addressed to religion, business, government, media and education, and which was presented and endorsed at the Parliament itself. (CalltoGuidingInstitutions.pdf or here)
In 2004 the Parliament was held in Barcelona, Spain, and EarthSpirit was again represented. MotherTongue traveled to Spain to perform, and members of EarthSpirit offered workshops and rituals and organized a shared information table. For several years prior to this event, Andras Corban Arthen had been developing connections with pagans throughout Spain, and particularly in Barcelona, so we were able to include many of them in various Parliament events and forged deeper friendships and connections which continue to this day. Two Spanish pagan groups have specifically used EarthSpirit as a model in developing their own organizations.
Andras and I were invited to be a part of the Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders that year, and as such, we participated along with 200 other international delegates in in-depth conversations about issues such as access to clean water, equal rights for women, religious violence, and other critical concerns facing the world. From these conversations and others like them throughout the event, participants were encouraged to make commitments to taking action in their local communities.
In 2006 Andras was elected to the Board of Trustees of the CPWR and has been an active member there ever since. In 2007, he represented the Indigenous European Traditions on behalf of the Parliament at the Universal Forum of Cultures in Monterrey, Mexico, where he offered workshops and participated in rituals with members of the local indigenous communities. (http://spiritofthearth.
In preparation for the 2009 Parliament, he has been a member of the Indigenous Task Force, working with a small group to contact and recruit leaders of indigenous spiritual traditions from around the world to offer special presentations at this year’s event. His focus has been especially on bringing in practitioners from South America and Europe. He has also been a part of the Program Committee, reviewing many of the thousands of program proposals that have been submitted, to help create the best possible content for the Parliament. Andras has also been building connections with pagans from Australia, and especially from Melbourne, where the Parliament is taking place.
This December, nine members of the EarthSpirit Community (so far) will travel 'down under' and join Andras to participate in the interfaith conversations, and offer workshops and rituals. We will host our own EarthSpirit information table and will collaborate in creating joint programs with others from earth-centered traditions. We are especially looking forward to connecting with members of the Australian pagan community.
We are very grateful to the members of EarthSpirit who have been so generous in their financial support of our interfaith work, especially over the last two years. While every person attending each of these Parliaments has made a considerable personal investment in order to be there, your donations have enabled the organization to be fully engaged in an ongoing international dialogue among deeply spiritual people committed to building a sustainable future. We have found we have a lot to learn and a lot to offer.
More information about EarthSpirit's participation in this year's Parliament, and an attempt to answer the question, "So what does our community get out of all of this interfaith work?”
If you are a member of EarthSpirit and are interested in coming to the Parliament in Australia, you can get in touch with me: email@example.com to talk about what we have planned.