TORONTO – Thousands of people from around the world filled the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Thursday evening for the opening ceremonies of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
“Welcome, global interfaith friends, to the seventh convening of the Parliament of the World’s Religions,” said Dr. Robert P. Sellers, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament in his welcome address.
“We are pleased that you have come to Toronto for this challenging, fascinating week of conferences.
“Your Parliament leaders believe that inclusion and love are essential acts that can make our world a safer, more beautiful place to live.”
The 2018 Parliament will run from November 1 – 7, 2018 at The Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) under the theme, The Promise of Inclusion & the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change.
“The phrases that comprise our theme are rich and profound,” added Dr. Sellers. “They are not just catchy or clever, but rather they signal the hope of a new tomorrow.”
“Inclusion doesn’t just describe the status of those formerly excluded but now included,” he continued.
“Rather, the concept points to the conversion that occurs when one discovers she belongs with others. Inclusion is exhilarating. It carries a gratifying subtext that says ‘I am equal, I am accepted, I am valued, I have a place.’”
The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell in her welcome address to the gathering said, “Communities of faith have over time played an unshakeable role in building the social fabric that clothes all humanity.”
“Many of the values that we cherish today, including compassion, generosity, justice, are anchored in spiritual traditions,” she added.
“Inherent among those who believe is the courage to continuously seek positive transformation in one’s own life and society.”
The 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 to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
During the week, 1,600 speakers and 1,000 breakout sessions will provide lectures, workshops, religious ceremonies, concerts, films and personal narratives for the 8,000 expected participants from 70 countries and 50 religions.
In its distinction as the world’s most diverse city, Toronto will showcase its unique values, achievements, and aspirations as the 7th host of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
According to organizers, the theme, The Promise of Inclusion & the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change, was inspired in part by the character of its host city.
Over 50% of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada and multiculturalism is celebrated within various neighborhoods in the city, which represent the traditions, religions, and cuisine of different ethnic backgrounds.
“We are honored to be the first Canadian venue to host the Parliament of the World’s Religions”, said Barry Smith, President, and CEO of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“Toronto is proud of its cultural diversity and we look forward to welcoming delegates from around the world who stand for peace and justice.”
“Toronto is a city where more than half of the population was born outside of Canada – we’re a city that welcomes the world,” said Tara Gordon, Vice President, Business Events Sales & Service at Tourism Toronto.
“Now Toronto has the honor to be the first Canadian destination to welcome the Parliament of the World’s Religions and we wish each and every delegate a remarkable stay in the most diverse city in the world.”
The first Parliament of Religions was held at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition and was the first formal meeting of the religious communities from the East and the West.
In 1988 the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) was founded to organize a centennial celebration of the original Parliament.
Since 1993, Parliaments have been held in Chicago, Cape Town, Barcelona, Melbourne and most recently in Salt Lake City in 2015.