Parliament of Religions, 1993 and Beyond

Parliament of Religions, 1993 and BeyondAt the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, the World’s Parliament of Religions gathered leaders from religions across the globe to present on their own traditions and meet members of other traditions. One hundred years later, inspired by the increased diversity of Chicago’s—and America’s—religious landscape, a consortium of different religious organizations held a centennial gathering. Since then, the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions has held periodic conventions with the goal of finding common ground between different religious and spiritual communities and shaping a just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

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In 1893, visitors of the World’s Fair in Chicago marveled at the Parliament of Religions, a landmark meeting of delegates from the world’s religious traditions. In keeping with the international flavor and spectacle of the Columbian Exposition, this meeting represented the first attempt at a planned worldwide interfaith dialogue. The World’s Parliament of Religions set the stage for future encounters and highlighted the possibility of more conversations to come.

However, nearly 100 years passed before a Chicago-based group, the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, began planning for a centennial of the 1893 Parliament. The 1993 Parliament was intended to be more religiously diverse than its predecessor, in part because Chicago itself had changed with the influx of post-1965 immigrants of many faiths. As one of the planners explained, “We realized that the basic elements of a parliament are already here in Chicago. We just didn’t know each other and rarely talked together.” Many religious communities became involved in organizing the event, forming fourteen host-committees including a Hindu Host Committee, a Buddhist Host Committee, and so forth. The communities that were guests in 1893 became the hosts of 1993.

By the early 1990s, Chicago was home to between fifty and seventy mosques serving a diverse Muslim population that included African Americans, South Asians, Palestinians, and Bosnians. Two large Hindu temples had recently been built in the suburbs of Aurora and Lemont, adding to a dozen others in the city. The Sikh community had built a beautiful gurdwara in Palatine and the Jains had just opened a large Jain temple in Bartlett. There was a range of Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox churches and the whole spectrum of Jewish congregations. Chicago’s Buddhists included Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean immigrants and many American-born converts. On the centennial revival of the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Chicago mirrored the diversity of the world and, increasingly, the diversity of America itself.

The opening ceremonies in 1893 had begun with the Protestant hymn “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” A century later, the procession of religious leaders entered the hall to the invocations of Tibetan monks alongside cymbals, drums, and polyphonic chanting. For nearly an hour, the many ranks of the procession passed through the enormous ballroom of the Palmer House in downtown Chicago. There were Christians of all denominations, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Zoroastrians, Muslims, Bahá’ís, and Native Americans. The saffron-robed Buddhist monks were from temples in Los Angeles and West Virginia, the Jains from Elmhurst, Illinois and Cypress, California, the Zoroastrians from Houston, Texas and Hinsdale, Illinois, the Hindus from Baltimore and suburban New Jersey, the Muslims from Northbrook and Skokie, Illinois. There were also many new traditions represented: American Daoists, representatives of the Covenant of the Goddess and Wicca, the Lyceum of Venus of Healing, and delegates of the native peoples of the Americas—Navajo and Crow, Lakota and Ojibway. The Native American blessing of the four directions formed the liturgical center of the opening ceremonies.

The Chicago Parliament made manifest America’s new religious reality. Just as the 1893 Parliament marked the entry into the American mainstream of Jewish and Catholic immigrants, so the 1993 Parliament marked the significant new presence of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims, and Buddhists who were not visitors to Chicago representing the religious traditions of other places, but Americans representing American religious traditions.

Since that milestone event in 1993, the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions has hosted six more international parliaments in Cape Town, South Africa (1999); Barcelona, Spain (2004); Melbourne, Australia (2009); Salt Lake City, USA (2015); and Toronto, Canada (2018). The Parliament in Melbourne included major speakers, a wide variety of dialogues, panels, and sessions, and a unique mix of arts and service events. Notable attendees included former United States President Jimmy Carter, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Vietnamese Buddhist and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, American Sikh filmmaker Valarie Kaur, Hindu spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Muslim ethicist Tariq Ramadan, Muslim interfaith leader Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, progressive Christian activist Reverend Jim Wallis, and Faithkeeper of the Onandaga Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy Chief Oren Lyons. The conference schedule was packed with musical and theatre performances, intrareligious and interreligious dialogues, service and volunteer opportunities, multireligious services, youth-oriented sessions, and film screenings.

In addition to hosting the Parliament, the Council organizes several national and international interfaith initiatives. These include “PeaceNext,” a social network for religious and interfaith leaders; an international Ambassador Program in which 120 representatives from 20 countries host parliament events in their own cities and towns; a “Sharing Sacred Spaces” program; a partner cities initiative; and a host of additional webinars and workshops.

Throughout the Council’s history, however, there have been controversies. In 1993, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Chicago withdrew as a co-sponsor of the Parliament because of “the distinctive participation of certain quasi-religious groups with which Orthodox Christians share no common ground.” The letter outlining the rationale for the Church’s decision went on to state that “[i]t would be inconceivable for Orthodox Christians to establish a perceived relationship with groups which profess no belief in God or a Supreme Being. The presence of such groups seems to compromise the integrity of the Parliament’s intended purpose.” Later that year, multiple members of the Buddhist community also lodged a complaint. In an open letter, Buddhists expressed their dismay at hearing “leaders of different religious traditions define all religions as religions of God and unwittingly rank Buddha with God.”

Several years later, some Australians expressed concern at the Council’s selection of Melbourne for 2009’s Parliament, arguing that the country’s significant atheist population makes Melbourne a poor choice for a religious conference: “Australia is one of the least religious countries in the world, with less than 10 per cent [sic] of adults attending regular religious services,” wrote one atheist in an opinion piece published in The Age newspaper in 2009. “The fastest growing demographic in this country are those claiming not to be affiliated with any religion,” he reminded readers. As planning for the 2014 Parliament in Brussels took shape, controversial issues such as European Union identity, citizenship, and nationalism found their way into the planning conversations. (The 2014 Parliament was moved to the United States and delayed until 2015 due to the European financial crisis.)

Despite these controversies and recent financial difficulties, the Council continues to look forward, bringing with it over a century of experience promoting interreligious encounter and cooperation, making it an important historic and contemporary voice in the global interfaith efforts.

Azizah al-Hibri Founding Member, Karamah Professor of Law, University of Richmond Richmond, Virginia (Audio)

Additional Content

“Declaration Toward a Global Ethic”

Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions

This interfaith declaration is the result of a two-year consultation among more than two hundred scholars and theologians representing the world’s communities of faith.

On September 2-4, 1993, the document was discussed by an assembly of religious and spiritual leaders meeting as part of the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. Respected leaders from all the world’s major faiths signed the declaration as individuals, agreeing that it represents an initial effort: a point of beginning for a world sorely in need of ethical consensus.


The world is in agony. The agony is so pervasive and urgent that we are compelled to name its manifestations so that the depth of this pain may be made clear.

Peace eludes us…the planet is being destroyed…neighbors live in fear…women and men are estranged from each other…children die!

This is abhorrent!

We condemn the abuses of Earth’s ecosystems.

We condemn the poverty that stifles life’s potential; the hunger that weakens the human body; the economic disparities that threaten so many families with ruin.

We condemn the social disarray of the nations; the disregard for justice which pushes citizens to the margin; the anarchy overtaking our communities; and the insane death of children from violence. In particular we condemn aggression and hatred in the name of religion.

But this agony need not be.

It need not be because the basis for an ethic already exists. This ethic offers the possibility of a better individual and global order, and leads individuals away from despair and societies away from chaos.

We are women and men who have embraced the precepts and practices of the world’s religions:

We affirm that a common set of core values is found in the teachings of the religions, and that these form the basis of a global ethic.

We affirm that this truth is already known, but yet to be lived in heart and action.

We affirm that there is an irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races, nations, and religions. There already exist ancient guidelines for human behavior which are found in the teachings of the religions of the world and which are the condition for a sustainable world order.


We are interdependent. Each of us depends on the well-being of the whole, and so we have respect for the community of living beings, for people, animals, and plants, and for the preservation of Earth, the air, water and soil.

We take individual responsibility for all we do. All our decisions, actions, and failures to act have consequences.

We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. We make a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception. We must have patience and acceptance. We must be able to forgive, learning from the past but never allowing ourselves to be enslaved by memories of hate. Opening our hearts to one another, we must sink our narrow differences for the cause of the world community, practicing a culture of solidarity and relatedness.

We consider humankind our family. We must strive to be kind and generous. We must not live for ourselves alone, but should also serve others, never forgetting the children, the aged, the poor, the suffering, the disabled, the refugees, and the lonely. No person should ever be considered or treated as a second-class citizen, or be exploited in any way whatsoever. There should be equal partnership between men and women. We must not commit any kind of sexual immorality. We must put behind us all forms of domination or abuse.

We commit ourselves to a culture of non-violence, respect, justice, and peace. We shall not oppress, injure, torture, or kill other human beings, forsaking violence as a means of settling differences.

We must strive for a just social and economic order, in which everyone has an equal chance to reach full potential as a human being. We must speak and act truthfully and with compassion, dealing fairly with all, and avoiding prejudice and hatred. We must not steal. We must move beyond the dominance of greed for power, prestige, money, and consumption to make a just and peaceful world.

Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed first. We pledge to increase our awareness by disciplining our minds, by meditation, by prayer, or by positive thinking. Without risk and a readiness to sacrifice there can be no fundamental change in our situation. Therefore we commit ourselves to this global ethic, to understanding one another, and to socially beneficial, peace-fostering, and nature-friendly ways of life.

We invite all people,
whether religious or not,
to do the same.


Our world is experiencing a fundamental crisis: a crisis in global economy, global ecology, and global politics. The lack of a grand vision, the tangle of unresolved problems, political paralysis, mediocre political leadership with little insight or foresight, and in general too little sense for the commonweal are seen everywhere:  too many old answers to new challenges.

Hundreds of millions of human beings on our planet increasingly suffer from unemployment, poverty, hunger, and the destruction of their families. Hope for a lasting peace among nations slips away from us. There are tensions between the sexes and generations. Children die, kill, and are killed. More and more countries are shaken by corruption in politics and business. It is increasingly difficult to live together peacefully in our cities because of social, racial, and ethnic conflicts, the abuse of drugs, organized crime, and even anarchy. Even neighbors often live in fear of one another. Our planet continues to be ruthlessly plundered. A collapse of the ecosystem threatens us.

Time and again we see leaders and members of religions incite aggression, fanaticism, hate, and xenophobia—even inspire and legitimize violent and bloody conflicts. Religion often is misused for purely power-political goals, including war. We are filled with disgust.

We condemn these blights and declare that they need not be. An ethic already exists within the religious teachings of the world which can counter the global distress. Of course this ethic provides no direct solution for all the immense problems of the world, but it does supply the moral foundation for a better individual and global order:  a vision which can lead women and men away from despair, and society away from chaos.

We are persons who have committed ourselves to the precepts and practices of the world’s religions.

We confirm that there is already a consensus among the religions which can be the basis for a global ethic—a minimal fundamental consensus concerning binding values, irrevocable standards, and fundamental moral attitudes.

I. No new global order without a new global ethic!

We women and men of various religions and regions of Earth therefore address all people, religious and non-religious. We wish to express the following convictions which we hold in common:

  • We all have a responsibility for a better global order.
  • Our involvement for the sake of human rights, freedom, justice, peace, and the preservation of Earth is absolutely necessary.
  • Our different religious and cultural traditions must not prevent our common involvement in opposing all forms of inhumanity and working for greater humaneness.
  • The principles expressed in this Global Ethic can be affirmed by all persons with ethical convictions, whether religiously grounded or not.
  • As religious and spiritual persons we base our lives on an Ultimate Reality, and draw spiritual power and hope therefrom, in trust, in prayer or meditation, in word or silence. We have a special responsibility for the welfare of all humanity and care for the planet Earth. We do not consider ourselves better than other women and men, but we trust that the ancient wisdom of our religions can point the way for the future.

After two world wars and the end of the cold war, the collapse of fascism and nazism, the shaking to the foundations of communism and colonialism, humanity has entered a new phase of its history.

Today we possess sufficient economic, cultural, and spiritual resources to introduce a better global order. But old and new ethnic, national, social, economic, and religious tensions threaten the peaceful building of a better world. We have experienced greater technological progress than ever before, yet we see that world-wide poverty, hunger, death of children, unemployment, misery, and the destruction of nature have not diminished but rather have increased. Many peoples are threatened with economic ruin, social disarray, political marginalization, ecological catastrophe, and national collapse.

In such a dramatic global situation humanity needs a vision of peoples living peacefully together, of ethnic and ethical groupings and of religions sharing responsibility for the care of Earth. A vision rests on hopes, goals, ideals, standards. But all over the world these have slipped from our hands. Yet we are convinced that, despite their frequent abuses and failures, it is the communities of faith who bear a responsibility to demonstrate that such hopes, ideals, and standards can be guarded, grounded, and lived. This is especially true in the modern state. Guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion are necessary but they do not substitute for binding values, convictions, and norms which are valid for all humans regardless of their social origin, sex, skin color, language, or religion.

We are convinced of the fundamental unity of the human family on Earth. We recall the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. What it formally proclaimed on the level of rights we wish to confirm and deepen here from the perspective of an ethic: the full realization of the intrinsic dignity of the human person, the inalienable freedom and equality in principle of all humans, and the necessary solidarity and interdependence of all humans with each other.

  • On the basis of personal experiences and the burdensome history of our planet we have learned: that a better global order cannot be created or enforced by laws, prescriptions, and conventions alone;
  • that the realization of peace, justice, and the protection of Earth depends on the insight and readiness of men and women to act justly;
  • that action in favor of rights and freedoms presumes a consciousness of responsibility and duty, and that therefore both the minds and hearts of women and men must be addressed;
  • that rights without morality cannot long endure, and that there will be no better global order without a global ethic.

By a global ethic we do not mean a global ideology or a single unified religion beyond all existing religions, and certainly not the domination of one religion over all others. By a global ethic we mean a fundamental consensus on binding values, irrevocable standards, and personal attitudes. Without such a fundamental consensus on an ethic, sooner or later every community will be threatened by chaos or dictatorship, and individuals will despair.

II. A fundamental demand: Every human being must be treated humanely.

We all are fallible, imperfect men and women with limitations and defects. We know the reality of evil. Precisely because of this, we feel compelled for the sake of global welfare to express what the fundamental elements of a global ethic should be—for individuals as well as for communities and organizations, for states as well as for the religions themselves. We trust that our often millennia-old religious and ethical traditions provide an ethic which is convincing and practicable for all women and men of good will, religious and non-religious.

At the same time we know that our various religious and ethical traditions often offer very different bases for what is helpful and what is unhelpful for men and women, what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. We do not wish to gloss over or ignore the serious differences among the individual religions. However, they should not hinder us from proclaiming publicly those things which we already hold in common and which we jointly affirm, each on the basis of our own religious or ethical grounds.

We know that religions cannot solve the environmental, economic, political, and social problems of Earth. However they can provide what obviously cannot be attained by economic plans, political programs, or legal regulations alone: a change in the inner orientation, the whole mentality, the ”hearts" of people, and a conversion from a false path to a new orientation for life. Humankind urgently needs social and ecological reforms, but it needs spiritual renewal just as urgently. As religious or spiritual persons we commit ourselves to this task. The spiritual powers of the religions can offer a fundamental sense of trust, a ground of meaning, ultimate standards, and a spiritual home. Of course religions are credible only when they eliminate those conflicts which spring from the religions themselves, dismantling mutual arrogance, mistrust, prejudice, and even hostile images, and thus demonstrate respect for the traditions, holy places, feasts, and rituals of people who believe differently.

Now as before, women and men are treated inhumanely all over the world. They are robbed of their opportunities and their freedom; their human rights are trampled underfoot; their dignity is disregarded. But might does not make right! In the face of all inhumanity our religious and ethical convictions demand that every human being must be treated humanely!

This means that every human being without distinction of age, sex, race, skin color, physical or mental ability, language, religion, political view, or national or social origin possesses an inalienable and untouchable dignity and everyone, the individual as well as the state, is therefore obliged to honor this dignity and protect it. Humans must always be the subjects of rights, must be ends, never mere means, never objects of commercialization and industrialization in economics, politics and media, in research institutes, and industrial corporations. No one stands "above good and evil"—no human being, no social class, no influential interest group, no cartel, no police apparatus, no army, and no state. On the contrary: possessed of reason and conscience, every human is obliged to behave in a genuinely human fashion, to do good and avoid evil!

It is the intention of this Global Ethic to clarify what this means. In it we wish to recall irrevocable, unconditional ethical norms. These should not be bonds and chains, but helps and supports for people to find and realize once again their lives’ direction, values, orientations, and meaning.

There is a principle which is found and has persisted in many religious and ethical traditions of humankind for thousands of years: What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others. Or in positive terms: What you wish done to yourself, do to others! This should be the irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races, nations, and religions.

Every form of egoism should be rejected: all selfishness, whether individual or collective, whether in the form of class thinking, racism, nationalism, or sexism. We condemn these because they prevent humans from being authentically human. Self-determination and self-realization are thoroughly legitimate so long as they are not separated from human self-responsibility and global responsibility, that is, from responsibility for fellow humans and for the planet Earth.

This principle implies very concrete standards to which we humans should hold firm. From it arise four broad, ancient guidelines for human behavior which are found in most of the religions of the world.

III. Irrevocable directives

1) Commitment to a Culture of Non-violence and Respect for Life.

Numberless women and men of all regions and religions strive to lead lives not determined by egoism but by commitment to their fellow humans and to the world around them. Nevertheless, all over the world we find endless hatred, envy, jealousy, and violence, not only between individuals but also between social and ethnic groups, between classes, races, nations, and religions. The use of violence, drug trafficking and organized crime, often equipped with new technical possibilities, has reached global proportions. Many places still are ruled by terror "from above;" dictators oppress their own people, and institutional violence is widespread. Even in some countries where laws exist to protect individual freedoms, prisoners are tortured, men and women are mutilated, hostages are killed.

(a) In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find the directive: You shall not kill! Or in positive terms: Have respect for life! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: All people have a right to life, safety, and the free development of personality insofar as they do not injure the rights of others. No one has the right physically or psychically to torture, injure, much less kill, any other human being. And no people, no state, no race, no religion has the right to hate, to discriminate against, to "cleanse," to exile, much less to liquidate a "foreign" minority which is different in behavior or holds different beliefs.

(b) Of course, wherever there are humans there will be conflicts. Such conflicts, however, should be resolved without violence within a framework of justice. This is true for states as well as for individuals. Persons who hold political power must work within the framework of a just order and commit themselves to the most non-violent, peaceful solutions possible. And they should work for this within an international order of peace which itself has need of protection and defense against perpetrators of violence. Armament is a mistaken path; disarmament is the commandment of the times. Let no one be deceived: There is no survival for humanity without global peace!

(c) Young people must learn at home and in school that violence may not be a means of settling differences with others. Only thus can a culture of non-violence be created.

(d) A human person is infinitely precious and must be unconditionally protected. But likewise the lives of animals and plants which inhabit this planet with us deserve protection, preservation, and care. Limitless exploitation of the natural foundations of life, ruthless destruction of the biosphere, and militarization of the cosmos are all outrages. As human beings we have a special responsibility—especially with a view to future generations—for Earth and the cosmos, for the air, water, and soil. We are all intertwined together in this cosmos and we are all dependent on each other. Each one of us depends on the welfare of all. Therefore the dominance of humanity over nature and the cosmos must not be encouraged. Instead we must cultivate living in harmony with nature and the cosmos.

(e) To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means that in public as well as in private life we must be concerned for others and ready to help. We must never be ruthless and brutal. Every people, every race, every religion must show tolerance and respect—indeed high appreciation—for every other. Minorities need protection and support, whether they be racial, ethnic, or religious.

2) Commitment to a Culture of Solidarity and a Just Economic Order.

Numberless men and women of all regions and religions strive to live their lives in solidarity with one another and to work for authentic fulfillment of their vocations. Nevertheless, all over the world we find endless hunger, deficiency, and need. Not only individuals, but especially unjust institutions and structures are responsible for these tragedies. Millions of people are without work; millions are exploited by poor wages, forced to the edges of society, with their possibilities for the future destroyed. In many lands the gap between the poor and the rich, between the powerful and the powerless is immense. We live in a world in which totalitarian state socialism as well as unbridled capitalism have hollowed out and destroyed many ethical and spiritual values. A materialistic mentality breeds greed for unlimited profit and a grasping for endless plunder. These demands claim more and more of the community’s resources without obliging the individual to contribute more.

The cancerous social evil of corruption thrives in the developing countries and in the developed countries alike.

(a) In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find the directive: You shall not steal! Or in positive terms: Deal honestly and fairly! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: No one has the right to rob or dispossess in any way whatsoever any other person or the commonweal. Further, no one has the right to use her or his possessions without concern for the needs of society and Earth.

(b) Where extreme poverty reigns, helplessness and despair spread, and theft occurs again and again for the sake of survival. Where power and wealth are accumulated ruthlessly, feelings of envy, resentment, and deadly hatred and rebellion inevitably well up in the disadvantaged and marginalized. This leads to a vicious circle of violence and counter-violence. Let no one be deceived: There is no global peace without global justice!

(c) Young people must learn at home and in school that property, limited though it may be, carries with it an obligation, and that its uses should at the same time serve the common good. Only thus can a just economic order be built up.

(d) If the plight of the poorest billions of humans on this planet, particularly women and children, is to be improved, the world economy must be structured more justly. Individual good deeds, and assistance projects, indispensable though they be, are insufficient. The participation of all states and the authority of international organizations are needed to build just economic institutions.

A solution which can be supported by all sides must be sought for the debt crisis and the poverty of the dissolving second world, and even more the third world. Of course conflicts of interest are unavoidable. In the developed countries, a distinction must be made between necessary and limitless consumption, between socially beneficial and non-beneficial uses of property, between justified and unjustified uses of natural resources, and between a profit-only and a socially beneficial and ecologically oriented market economy. Even the developing nations must search their national consciences.

Wherever those ruling threaten to repress those ruled, wherever institutions threaten persons, and wherever might oppresses right, we are obligated to resist—whenever possible non-violently.

(e) To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means the following:

  • We must utilize economic and political power for service to humanity instead of misusing it in ruthless battles for domination. We must develop a spirit of compassion with those who suffer, with special care for the children, the aged, the poor, the disabled, the refugees, and the lonely.
  • We must cultivate mutual respect and consideration, so as to reach a reasonable balance of interests, instead of thinking only of unlimited power and unavoidable competitive struggles.
  • We must value a sense of moderation and modesty instead of an unquenchable greed for money, prestige, and consumption. In greed humans lose their "souls," their freedom, their composure, their inner peace, and thus that which makes them human.

3) Commitment to a Culture of Tolerance and a Life of Truthfulness.

Numberless women and men of all regions and religions strive to lead lives of honesty and truthfulness. Nevertheless, all over the world we find endless lies and deceit, swindling and hypocrisy, ideology and demagoguery:

  • Politicians and business people who use lies as a means to success;
  • Mass media which spread ideological propaganda instead of accurate reporting, misinformation instead of information, cynical commercial interest instead of loyalty to the truth;
  • Scientists and researchers who give themselves over to morally questionable ideological or political programs or to economic interest groups, or who justify research which violates fundamental ethical values;
  • Representatives of religions who dismiss other religions as of little value and who preach fanaticism and intolerance instead of respect and understanding.

(a) In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find the directive: You shall not lie! Or in positive terms: Speak and act truthfully! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: No woman or man, no institution, no state or church or religious community has the right to speak lies to other humans.

(b) This is especially true

  • for those who work in the mass media, to whom we entrust the freedom to report for the sake of truth and to whom we thus grant the office of guardian. They do not stand above morality but have the obligation to respect human dignity, human rights, and fundamental values. They are duty-bound to objectivity, fairness, and the preservation of human dignity. They have no right to intrude into individuals’ private spheres, to manipulate public opinion, or to distort reality;
  • for artists, writers, and scientists, to whom we entrust artistic and academic freedom. They are not exempt from general ethical standards and must serve the truth;
  • for the leaders of countries, politicians, and political parties, to whom we entrust our own freedoms. When they lie in the faces of their people, when they manipulate the truth, or when they are guilty of venality or ruthlessness in domestic or foreign affairs, they forsake their credibility and deserve to lose their offices and their voters. Conversely, public opinion should support those politicians who dare to speak the truth to the people at all times;
  • finally, for representatives of religion. When they stir up prejudice, hatred, and enmity towards those of different belief, or even incite or legitimize religious wars, they deserve the condemnation of humankind and the loss of their adherents.

Let no one be deceived:  There is no global justice without truthfulness and humaneness!

(c) Young people must learn at home and in school to think, speak, and act truthfully. They have a right to information and education to be able to make the decisions that will form their lives. Without an ethical formation they will hardly be able to distinguish the important from the unimportant. In the daily flood of information, ethical standards will help them discern when opinions are portrayed as facts, interests veiled, tendencies exaggerated, and facts twisted.

(d) To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means the following:

  • We must not confuse freedom with arbitrariness or pluralism with indifference to truth.
  • We must cultivate truthfulness in all our relationships instead of dishonesty, dissembling, and opportunism.
  • We must constantly seek truth and incorruptible sincerity instead of spreading ideological or partisan half-truths.
  • We must courageously serve the truth and we must remain constant and trustworthy, instead of yielding to opportunistic accommodation to life.

4) Commitment to a Culture of Equal Rights and Partnership Between Men and Women

Numberless men and women of all regions and religions strive to live their lives in a spirit of partnership and responsible action in the areas of love, sexuality, and family. Nevertheless, all over the world there are condemnable forms of patriarchy, domination of one sex over the other, exploitation of women, sexual misuse of children, and forced prostitution. Too frequently, social inequities force women and even children into prostitution as a means of survival—particularly in less developed countries.

(a) In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find the directive: You shall not commit sexual immorality! Or in positive terms: Respect and love one another! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: No one has the right to degrade others to mere sex objects, to lead them into or hold them in sexual dependency.

(b) We condemn sexual exploitation and sexual discrimination as one of the worst forms of human degradation. We have the duty to resist wherever the domination of one sex over the other is preached—even in the name of religious conviction; wherever sexual exploitation is tolerated, wherever prostitution is fostered or children are misused. Let no one be deceived: There is no authentic humaneness without a living together in partnership!

(c) Young people must learn at home and in school that sexuality is not a negative, destructive, or exploitative force, but creative and affirmative. Sexuality as a life-affirming shaper of community can only be effective when partners accept the responsibilities of caring for one another’s happiness.

(d) The relationship between women and men should be characterized not by patronizing behavior or exploitation, but by love, partnership, and trustworthiness. Human fulfillment is not identical with sexual pleasure. Sexuality should express and reinforce a loving relationship lived by equal partners.

Some religious traditions know the ideal of a voluntary renunciation of the full use of sexuality. Voluntary renunciation also can be an expression of identity and meaningful fulfillment.

(e) The social institution of marriage, despite all its cultural and religious variety, is characterized by love, loyalty, and permanence. It aims at and should guarantee security and mutual support to husband, wife, and child. It should secure the rights of all family members.

All lands and cultures should develop economic and social relationships which will enable marriage and family life worthy of human beings, especially for older people. Children have a right of access to education. Parents should not exploit children, nor children parents. Their relationships should reflect mutual respect, appreciation, and concern.

(f) To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means the following:

  • We need mutual respect, partnership, and understanding, instead of patriarchal domination and degradation, which are expressions of violence and engender counter-violence.
  • We need mutual concern, tolerance, readiness for reconciliation, and love, instead of any form of possessive lust or sexual misuse.

Only what has already been experienced in personal and familial relationships can be practiced on the level of nations and religions.

IV. A Transformation of Consciousness

Historical experience demonstrates the following: Earth cannot be changed for the better unless we achieve a transformation in the consciousness of individuals and in public life. The possibilities for transformation have already been glimpsed in areas such as war and peace, economy, and ecology, where in recent decades fundamental changes have taken place. This transformation must also be achieved in the area of ethics and values!

Every individual has intrinsic dignity and inalienable rights, and each also has an inescapable responsibility for what she or he does and does not do. All our decisions and deeds, even our omissions and failures, have consequences.

Keeping this sense of responsibility alive, deepening it and passing it on to future generations, is the special task of religions.

We are realistic about what we have achieved in this consensus, and so we urge that the following be observed:

1) A universal consensus on many disputed ethical questions (from bio- and sexual ethics through mass media and scientific ethics to economic and political ethics) will be difficult to attain. Nevertheless, even for many controversial questions, suitable solutions should be attainable in the spirit of the fundamental principles we have jointly developed here.

2) In many areas of life a new consciousness of ethical responsibility has already arisen. Therefore we would be pleased if as many professions as possible, such as those of physicians, scientists, business people, journalists, and politicians, would develop up-to-date codes of ethics which would provide specific guidelines for the vexing questions of these particular professions.

3) Above all, we urge the various communities of faith to formulate their very specific ethics: What does each faith tradition have to say, for example, about the meaning of life and death, the enduring of suffering and the forgiveness of guilt, about selfless sacrifice and the necessity of renunciation, about compassion and joy. These will deepen, and make more specific, the already discernible global ethic.

In conclusion, we appeal to all the inhabitants of this planet. Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed. We pledge to work for such transformation in individual and collective consciousness, for the awakening of our spiritual powers though reflection, meditation, prayer, or positive thinking, for a conversion of the heart. Together we can move mountains! Without willingness to take risks and a readiness to sacrifice, there can be no fundamental change in our situation! Therefore we commit ourselves to a common global ethic, to better mutual understanding, as well as to socially beneficial peace-fostering, and Earth-friendly ways of life.

We invite all men and women,
whether religious or not,
to do the same.

[“Declaration Toward a Global Ethic,” 4 September 1993. Parliament of the World’s Relgions. Chicago, U.S.A.]

“A History of the Parliament (1893 to 2009)”

Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
Chicago, IL


The Parliament of the World’s Religions began in 1893 and has since been held in various locations around the world. This interactive timeline provides detail on the past and future Parliament events. 

[“A History of the Parliament.” Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.]

2009 Parliament Highlights

Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
Chicago, IL

A catalogue of multimedia highlights from the 2009 Parliament in Melbourne, Australia.

Video highlights include:

[“2009 Parliament Highlights.” Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. 2009.]