Parliament of the World’s Religions: Participants speak on income inequality

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After listening to a group of diverse religious leaders address how income inequality is an increasingly dire problem in most areas of the world, many of those in the audience acknowledged it is an issue they can agree on, despite different religious backgrounds and beliefs.

Erica Palmer
A Tibetan Buddhist display honoring the Dalai Lama at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions. The spiritual leader was scheduled to appear at a plenary session on income inequality; the audience saw a short video message he shared instead. (Erica Palmer)

“We are meant to be blessed and blessed extensively,” said Rocoo Puopolo, a Catholic priest from Holliston, Massachusetts. Wealth is seen as a blessing, and poverty as a curse. However, when people see one another in this way, they see each other as an object to exploit.

“We who have been blessed owe the ones we exploited,” Puopolo said. “Reparations may not be possible, but we must change our perceptions.”

Diana Dokos, a Buddhist from Springdale, Utah, said she would “reframe the conversation and approach it from other directions. To focus on income inequality perpetuates and manifests more of it.”

She said it was not to dismiss opportunities to create new economic models by which everyone benefits andcreate a world that works for everyone.

“I would focus on consciously and creatively imagining and designing new opportunities, new ways, new means of creating abundance and thriving lives for everyone,” Dokos said.

Chaplain Gerrie Walker, New Thought practitioner from Sacramento, California, said, “We know that women make a lot less in the same occupations than men. I support equality for men and women. If I drive a forklift and if the guy next to me is driving a forklift, we both deserve the same amount of money.”

Equal pay for equal work is something Swati Joshi, a Hindu woman from Potomac, Maryland, agreed with. “Women have made great strides in income equality but still need to catch up. Meetings like the Parliament of the World’s Religions are important to bring this significant issue to the forefront so that changes can be initiated.”

Zachary Geary, who identifies as a secular person interested in the theory of religion from Chickasha, Oklahoma said, “Income inequality is a major issue. Here in America we are separating ourselves into an Indian caste system based on wealth, and that produces unequal opportunities. Government officials need to work with individuals to fix this problem soon and make it a priority, so the gap does not widen.”

Grant Schettler, an Episcopalian from Salt Lake City, agreed with some of the presenters that, “Income inequality is the most pressing issue that we need to solve,or live in a forever changed world. We need to look at the influence structure of how government officials are elected and look at our taxing structure to solve this issue. We have to pay our fair share and we are not doing that.”

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