The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City became home to the diversity of world faiths Thursday, as the international Parliament of the World’s Religions was welcomed with a colorful processional and greetings from both world and local religious leaders and political figures.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that leaders from seven American Indian tribes, clad in traditional feathered headdresses, led the way to the podium. They were followed by men and women in tunics, suits, robes and saris in various colors. Several sported religious headwear.
The assembly’s mission is to hold conversations among diverse faiths about problems like war, hatred, climate change, wastefulness and income equality.
The theme for the international gathering which continues through Monday, is, “Reclaiming the Heart of our Humanity.”
Malik Mujahid, chair of the Parliament, faced a delighted audience during Thursday’s opening ceremonies, saying that “with love in our hearts and compassion in our minds, and a smile on our faces, to reclaim the heart of humanity, I declare the 6th Parliament of the World’s Religions open!”
He told the multi-cultural crowd of thousands, “Our actions speak louder, even if the media has trouble hearing them.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, U.S. Ambassador of Religious Freedom, alluded to discussion of women’s empowerment during the Parliament’s first-ever women’s assembly on Thursday, saying, “The greatest threat to (religious) extremism is not missiles, but girls reading books!”
The Deseret News reported that Elder L. Whitney Clayton, senior president of the LDS Church’s Presidency of the Seventy, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert both welcomed participants to Salt Lake City, reminding the audience that religious faith brought the Mormon pioneers to Utah more than 150 years ago.
“They faced insurmountable odds, but as Gov. Herbert has already acknowledged, look what is accomplished. We’re delighted to welcome you to this beautiful city we call home,” Elder Clayton said.
Over the years, Salt Lake City has benefitted from the influence of other faith traditions, he said.
“The combination enriches society. It enriches our communities. We welcome you here with that very same spirit. We’re glad to see you,” Elder Clayton said.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker thanked Parliament leaders, “for choosing Salt Lake City to discuss the topics that really matter: humanity, compassion, peace, justice and sustainability of the earth.”
The Parliament was first held in Chicago in 1893, and has been convened in major cities worldwide over more than a century since. It has been more than 20 years since the Parliament has convened in the United States.
The first gathering drew between 3,000 and 7,000 attendees. It returned to Chicago in 1993, then went to Cape Town, South Africa in 1999 and then in Melbourne, Australia in 2009. This year’s Parliament continues through Monday.
More Universe coverage of the Parliament of the World’s Religions: