Faiths Meet to Build Ties Across Religious Divides

December 8, 2009

Author: Christopher Landau

Source: BBC News

What happens when an imam, a priest and a rabbi get into a lift together?

It may sound like a joke, but it is an everyday occurrence at the world's largest inter-faith gathering - and such unexpected encounters are positively encouraged.

The Parliament of the World's Religions has brought together representatives from 80 nationalities and more than 220 faith traditions for seven days of debate and dialogue.

The organisers hope that chance meetings in lifts, along with attendance at the 600 different formal meetings, will lead to new partnerships between religious groups.

This is only the fifth such "parliament" to take place.

A groundbreaking meeting between religious leaders from different parts of the world happened in Chicago in 1893.

One hundred years later, a group of inter-faith practitioners decided to hold another such meeting, and they have happened almost every five years since then.

The emphasis is on building relationships and giving members of each faith the opportunity to better understand several others.

There are no formal debates or votes, but organisers say that any commitments made by members of a particular community are formally recorded.