Posted: 27th November 2018 Subject: PWR 2018 - diverse reports
Column: The View from Pagan Meet and Greet at PWR
Guest Contributor — November 25, 2018 — 2 Comments
Pagan Perspectives / Guest columnist Karen Dales attended the Parliament of World Religions and shares her view from the Pagan Meet and Greet Booth.
The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love, was the theme of the Parliament of World’s Religions (PWR), held in Toronto, Canada from November 1st – 7th, 2018.
This theme thread its way through the Pagan community doubly so. Its eye found in the Meet and Greet Space, given to the Pagans by the PWR after local High Priestess and Toronto Steering Committee Member,
Catherine Starr, fought tooth and nail to secure the Pagans four spaces: a Pagan Faith Booth; a Pagan Faith space, which was for morning meditations and evening rituals,
facilitated by many Pagans and Pagan organisations; the Pagan Family Festival Booth, and the Pagan Meet and Greet Space.
The Pagan Meet and Greet Space could not have been better placed, as an estimated ten thousand people at the PWR had to walk past the very distinct chalkboard declaring the space and listing daily
Pagan events. Set up with two tables and chairs, the open double booth allowed a diversity of interactions between Pagans of many Paths and between Pagans and non-Pagans.
With twenty-three years of co-running the Toronto Pagan Pub Moot, I had the distinct honour of facilitating this space, integral to the Pagan experience at the PWR.
Karen Dales, Catherine Starr, and Sandy Foo [Courtesy: K. Dales]
With the help of many volunteers, both local and international, we educated many non-Pagans and made a safe and welcoming place for those who would like to learn about Paganism
in its vastness or just relax and enjoy each other’s company. The tables were festooned with pamphlets and giveaways from our diverse community. Over seven days,
there were many experiences that took place at the Meet and Greet Space, some heartwarming, others relaxing, and the rest festive. I wish I could fill this article with all that occurred,
but instead I will endeavour to exhibit some of the highlights.
[Rev. Selena Fox and Catherine Star at PWR; Courtesy K. Dales]
Upon reaching the space to set up, I was struck by all the drapes dividing the different Meet and Greet groups, and the drapes blocking these spaces from the conference goers.
How could this area be inclusive when barriers were set in place? After speaking with delegates from the United Religions Initiative (URI), whose space neighboured ours,
it was decided to take down these walls and open the spaces to everyone. In that first act, the tone was set in accordance to the Parliament’s theme. What came next surprised me.
After setting the blackboard to welcome Pagans to the PWR, members or many different international and local Pagan groups came by, all happy to discover our space.
It was more thrilling to see their expressions as they were not only warmly welcomed, but their happy surprise when asked for their group’s literature to alight the two eight foot tables.
Literature from the Wiccan Church of Canada, Covenant of the Goddess, Ar nDraiocht Fein, Toronto Pagan Pub Moot,
Pagan Federation International, Aquarian Tabernacle Church, Circle Sanctuary, Earth Spirit, The Troth, Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry, Church of All Worlds,
and others provided a wealth of information for many to take and read.
Pagan Meet and Greet at PWR [Courtesy K. Dales]
Having the chalkboard listing daily Pagan events and what our space entailed attracted many people from many faiths. Quite a few were Sikhs, Jews, Christians,
Mormons and Muslims, as well as Indigenous Peoples and Buddhists. We even had the head of the Hate Crimes Division for York Regional Police (York Region is north-west of Toronto)
come down to learn more about Paganism and other marginalised religions.
The Meet and Greet Space became a refuge for Pagans and non-Pagans to sit and speak freely, which allowed greater connections and the building of new friendships.
In this spirit, at least two magical occurrences happened. The first was when a High Priestess from California, USA, realised she had lost the amber and jet necklace given to her by her High Priestess.
To help alleviate her suffering, two High Priestesses—one from Massachusetts, USA and one from Toronto, Canada, who had never met each other nor the Californian HPS before the PWR,
came together to purchase an amber necklace (there was no jet to purchase there), and gave it to the Californian HPS with a blessing.
The Meet and Greet Space and all those there witnessed this selfless generosity.
Pagans in the Meet and Greet Richard James retired HP of the WCC, Morgana Sythove of Pagan Federation International, Devyn, Karen Dales of the Toronto Pagan Pub Moot,
Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, Scarlet Jory of the Crescent Moon School of Magic and Paganism, Trey Capnerhurst of Silver Song Collective, George Thompson a HP of the WCC, and Brandon Fox
The second and most impactful event that came from the Meet and Greet Space was the spiral dance led by Catherine Starr. On the Saturday,
after it became clear that the Goddess in all Her manifestations were being forgotten at the plenaries, Catherine decided to have as many pagans as possible for a flash-mob spiral dance on Sunday.
From the Meet and Greet Space word was disseminated that we would meet on Sunday at 4:30pm.
On Sunday, Pagans of many Paths, Traditions, Cultures and Countries met at the Meet and Greet Space, joined by a number of Indigenous Peoples.
There, on the mosaic of a turtle on the world, Catherine led around seventy-five people in a spiral dance to the Isis, Astarte, Diana chant.
She led us up one set of escalators, then another, across the rainbow bridge from the South Building to the North Building, collecting more people in our dance along the way.
Down one escalator and then another, until we finished the spiral dance in the North Building. We had collected not only more Pagans and Indigenous people, but Sikhs,
Buddhists and others from different faiths. All of us chanted the names of the Goddess. Still charged with exuberance, a giant hug-huddle ensued. Love and joy in everyone’s hearts.
After the Spiral Dance [Courtesy: K. Dales]
The Meet and Greet Space at the Parliament of World Religions became the heart where Pagans and non-Pagans interacted in peace and friendship.
No barriers limited individuals. Only inclusivity, the dismantling of misconceptions, and new friendships remained. I wish I could relay all the amazing experiences,
but it would take seven days to read it all.
There is a thing called Fest-head that occurs after leaving a Pagan festival and dissipates a few days after, but Parliament-brain lasts forever
because the amazing experiences there will never occur again—truly life changing.
https://wildhunt.org/20 ... m5JhtZex7GgQ
Karen Dales is an award winning, bestselling author of The Chosen Chronicles.
She is a Gardnerian High Priestess who co-runs a coven with her husband, as well as co-founded and co-host of the Toronto Pagan Pub Moot (c. Feb. 1996).
Karen, her husband, and son are servants to six cats in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Posted: 2nd December 2018 Subject:
November 15, 2018
A BITTERSWEET PARLIAMENT
Sharing Joy and Pain in Toronto
by Tarunjit Singh Butalia
As someone who has been involved for about two years with the planning of the Toronto Parliament of the World’s Religions, while driving to Toronto I felt like a student the night before final exam week. However, as soon as I walked into the Metro Toronto Convention Center and the hugs and handshakes began, all felt good again. I was at the reunion of the largest and most diverse interfaith party in the world! It was a joy to be with about 8,000 persons of faith and conscience from all over the world to share our hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren through our individual and collective faith commitments.
The Joy of Giving
The local Sikh community (led by the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council) worked with other Canadian and international Sikhs to serve langar daily at lunchtime during the Toronto Parliament. Langar is the Sikh word for “open kitchen. ” It was started by the first Sikh Guru, Siri Guru Nanak Sahib, and represents the principle of equality among all people regardless of religion, caste, color, creed, age, gender, or social status. Additionally, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness, and oneness of all humankind. Regardless of who provides the funds for the food and its distribution, it is called ‘Guru ka Langar. ’ The Langar institution represents “sharing” and not “charity” and is a simple meal, not a feast.
(Langar at the 2018 Parliament – Photo: United Religions Initiative)
It was quite a sight to see hundreds of attendees lined up outside the Langar Hall during lunchtime, removing shoes and covering their heads with scarves, and then sitting cross-legged in rows eating the same South Asian food while talking with people from other parts of the world and different religions. Only vegetarian food was offered to ensure that all people, regardless of their dietary restrictions, could eat as equals and no one goes hungry. Over fikve days, Sikhs served over 20,000 meals in the spirit of sharing fruits of honest labor with others. The volunteers worked seamlessly like water flowing in a river passing through a flat meadow. I was particularly impressed with the langar being served without anyone being visibly in charge.
I was asked which Sikh individuals to recognize for the langar at the closing ceremony. My response was that focus on Sikh individual personalities ended with our Tenth Guru, so no one person or organization needs recognition, but thanks can be offered to all the volunteers who helped with the ‘Guru ka Langar. ’ And so we celebrated another Parliament with a Langar dedicated to all the volunteers who joined their heads, hearts, and hands to share a meal with fellow human beings.
A Bitter Edge
(Swami Agnivesh – Photo: Wikimedia)
So much for the joys of Toronto. The first week of November is a time of reflection and a painful reminder for the Sikh community as it is the anniversary of the pogroms against Sikhs of November 1984 – during which over 3,000 Sikhs were killed across India by ravaging mobs with support from the government. The accused went scot free and impunity continues 34 years later. Some of the Sikh plenary speakers chose to share this pain in the safe space created at the Parliament. Among them was Swami Agnivesh, who raised the issue in the opening remarks of his plenary address.
Not everyone understood the depth of pain the Sikh community experiences during this time of year and therefore why we felt it was important to express it during the Parliament. A Jain friend approached me towards the end of the Parliament asking why 34 years later Sikhs were raising the pain of November 1984 during this gathering. In response, I said that I wonder why around this time of the year, Hindus still burn the effigy of Ravana centuries later and why the Jewish community still commemorates the Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). Later my Jain friend graciously apologized.
November 1984 was the Kristallnacht of the Sikh community. One of the Sikh survivors of that genocide was at the Parliament and received a standing ovation when introduced at the opening plenary.
Let there be no doubt that peace without justice is a peace of the graveyard. Expecting religious minorities to self-censor themselves at public forums such as the Parliament in the interest of any nation state is unacceptable. The Sikh community stepped out of its anguish to share its story with compassion at the event. We need our friends in faith to stand with us while we stand with them to confront bigotry, hate, and dehumanization – irrespective of where it raises its ugly head. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. ”
This has been a bitter-sweet Parliament for me. Bitter because this time of the year reminds me and the Sikh community of the continuing raw pain of the November 1984 massacres in India. The sweetness of the hugs, the musical concert, the compassion of the attendees, the smiles of children, the dedication of the staff, and the promise of love as well as hope for the future will be cherished by me for a long time – till we meet again in a few years half way across the world for the next Parliament of the World’s Religions! Till then we are now back home – doing the real work of being instruments of God in making our world a more peaceful and just place for all.
TARUNJIT SINGH BUTALIA
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Header Photo: Bittersweet berries – Photo: liz west, C. c. 2.0
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Posted: 3rd December 2018 Subject: 2018 Parliament Report to CoG (Covenant of the Goddess)
2018 Parliament Report to CoG (Covenant of the Goddess)
Rev. Rowan Fairgrove, EPs
CoG National Interfaith Representative
(John H, Rowan Fairgrove and Morgana at PWR, 2018)
The 7th Parliament of the World's Religions took place in Toronto from
November 1–7, 2018. The theme was: "The Promise of Inclusion, The
Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and
Change." There were 10,000 delegates from 80 countries, representing
nearly 200 religious, spiritual, and Indigenous traditions. There were
1,600 presenters doing almost 1000 programs, workshops, films,
meditations, performances, art shows, rituals, and dialogues across six
major tracks focusing on Women, Climate, Peace, Indigenous Peoples,
Next Generation and Justice. Any individual report of the Parliament will,
of necessity be fragmentary and personal.
Pre-Parliament Samhain Ritual
I flew to Toronto on 11/30 so that I would be there in time for the Pre-
Parliament Samhain ritual. It started with a "Witches' Walk" at 5:30 from a
local shop called Wonderworks and culminated in a ritual at the Holy
Trinity Labyrinth. Catherine Starr coordinated the ritual which involved
about 20 officiants and around 100 participants. Officiants were drawn
from CoG, Circle Sanctuary, Earthspirit, Pagan Federation, Correllians and
probably other groups of whom I am not aware. Many local Toronto
community members also attended. We invoked the "13 Crones of
Samhain" from a song by Selena Fox and danced the labyrinth together.
(Well, I didn't dance, of course. I was the Crone of the Heavens and held a
cauldron into which the dancers dropped a mixture of 9 herbs. They
smelled amazing!) Many of us headed off to a local pub and continued to
bond ahead of the official beginning of the Parliament.
On November 2nd, I attended a screening of the film, Yemanja: Wisdom
from the African Heart of Brazil. It was directed by Donna Carole Roberts
with associate director Donna Reed (whom many of us know from the
Goddess Remembered films) and narrated by Alice Walker. It is an hour
long documentary about the Candomble community in Bahia, Brazil. One
of the interviewees in the film was Mae Filhinha de Iemanja who was 109
when she passed just after the film was in the can. Although she never
got to see the final film, the grand opening was in her Candomble
community. The film and its companion photography exhibit, Goddesses
of Nature can be booked for screening engagements. I am very happy to
have bought a DVD for personal use.
On Nov 2nd, I also tried to attend the Welcome from the Pagan Parliament
Trustees, but, as happened repeatedly, we overflowed the small function
room allotted to us and I was one of the perhaps 50+ people hanging out
in the hall. This room was "ours" for morning meditations and afternoon
worship services and it was clearly too small for the level of interest.
I attended the Pagan Worship on the 3rd, Saturday's rite was a Sumbel led
by Diana Paxson. We lifted the horn and remembered our ancestors. As
this is the first year my father is amongst the Beloved Dead and because
he dedicated his death to Freya amongst other deities, I found this a very
moving and appropriate rite.
On the 4th, that afternoon's Pagan Worship was a lovely rite, Circle for
Planet Earth, led by Selena Fox and Circle Sanctuary Community
members. It was a beautiful blend of chants and poetry and prayers for
environmental healing, ecosystem renewal and planetary wellness.
On the 5th, I was at the Pagan Booth when our flash mob assembled.
After listening to days of "God talk" some folks felt it was time to name
some Goddesses. The flash mob of Goddess singing and dancing
processed through the halls, up and down escalators and through the
various buildings of the convention centre. A Sikh family joined us in
happy singing and dancing, occasionally adding "Kali" to our Isis, Astarte,
Diana, Hecate chant. I took an elevator up to get ahead of them and got a
bit of video which I'm happy to share.
On the 6th the Pagan Community offered a "Bardic Night" at noon on the
Festival Stage in the Exhibit Hall. There were two hours of poetry, song
and the telling of sacred stories. Brian Walsh and J. D. Hickey MC'd as
many amazing musicians and storytellers shared Pagan traditions with
the Parliament. It was an awesome performance and, I think, the first
such stage presentation at a Parliament showcasing Pagan culture in such
a big way.
Other Programming Highlights
One of most moving things I did at the Parliament was attend the
engagement ceremony for Ricardo and Johnny in the Rainbow Room.
Ricardo is from Mexico and Johnny is from Arizona, they met at an
interfaith event in Edmonton and fell in love. Many people came to bless
them and celebrate their engagement. So much love and support!
I went to a session by Ross Murray of GLAAD on "LGBTQ Media Advocacy
for People of Faith". He had 45 minutes to convey information from what
is normally a six hour class! Nonetheless, it was really useful about how
to work with media and how to create compelling stories to get one's
message out. I really want to take the full class sometime!
I attended a justice track program called "Building Power for Effective
Action" by Shanta Premawardhana, president of the Omnia Institute. One
of the things he spoke about was doing one-on-ones, a practice I do via
PACT. He suggests that doing a one-on-one takes curiousity and courage
to ask the deeper questions. "What makes you who you are." "What
experiences?" "What knowledge?" "How can we work together." He also
suggests "Take on problems that are Urgent, Relevant and Winnable" and
gave some examples in his community. I found it very inspiring and well
presented. I went to a later program by Omnia's Communications
Director, Vince Eisner, which was hands down the worst talk attended at
the Parliament. I still signed up to learn more about Omnia.
On November 3rd, SiVIC had our panel "An Interfaith Story: Journey from
Inaugural Partner City to Thriving Interreligious Council". Panelists were
Rev. Joy-Ellen Lipsky (UU and Kriya Yoga), Rev. Rowan Fairgrove, EPs
(Wicca), Rabbi Elisheva Salamo (Judaism), Rahul Dubey (Sikh and SiVIC's
Youth leader), and Girish Shah (Jain). It was fairly lightly attended (in a
room 3 times the one the Pagan events kept overflowing) but I think it
Meet & Greets
On November 1st I attended a Meet and Greet for the Charter for
Compassion. Santa Clara County, CA, where I live is a Compassionate
County. The Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC) was instrumental
in getting our County Supervisors to sign the declaration in April 2017. At
the meet and greet I had the chance to speak to others working to create
compassionate cities and counties both in the US and Mexico. We also
talked about the Compassion Games and how our individual groups are
promoting and cooperating together in them.
Afterwards I headed to the opening reception for the LGBTQ+ Rainbow
Room gathering space. Toronto’s Unity Mosque and other welcoming
local faith communities were on hand to welcome us. The walls had five
panels from a love is love is love ad campaign currently up at Toronto city
hall. This is the first year the Parliament has had a dedicated space (and
19 programs) specifically for/about the LGBTQQIA+ community.
On November 4th, I attended the United Religion Initiative Reception.
Founder Rt. Rev. Bill Swing, Executive Director Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian,
Jr., URI Global Council Chairperson Kiran Bali and North American
Regional Director Sari Heidenreich gave us updates and encouragement.
Then Reggae stars Pato Banton and Antoinette “Roots Dawtah” Hall got
folks singing and dancing and it turned into an amazing energy raising
experience. We also got a picture of all the Multiregion members present.
I also went to the closing event for the Rainbow Room. Having Queer
space at the Parliament was amazing and transformational. The level of
inclusion and diversity at the Parliament was heartwarming. I also had
great conversations over the week with other folks interested in
expanding the presence and acceptance of Queer folks and especially
Transfolks in our religious communities.
Exhibit and Community Hall Highlights
There were three separate areas where organizations and vendors had
space - an organization room on 200, hospitality booths on 600 and a
large exhibit hall on 800. This everything else at the Parliament there is A
LOT of action!
I spent a fair bit of time in the Pagan and URI hospitality booths on 600
(conveniently next to each other). We posted a daily chalkboard of Pagan
programming and were available for questions and conversation. There
was a good bit of traffic and Karen Dales and Catherine Starr were
I had a lovely chat with the representative from the Canadian Unitarian
Universalists in the 200 room. For those interested, they have a lovely
video at <https://vimeo.com/288227896>.
My first impression of the exhibit hall on 800 was the incredible
profusion of fiber arts. Throughout the exhibit hall, there were many
tapestries from Joseph L. Vasile's "Peace Flags on the Wind" made with
fiber arts collage. Some had been created at the Utah Parliament and
more were being created right there in the exhibit hall. The Indigenous
People's Program had an amazing exhibit of quilts made by Alice Olsen
Williams on Indigenous themes. Just outside the Exhibit Hall there was a
giant circular tapestry "the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Quilt" worked on by
72 Muslim and Jewish women together. I took lots of pictures!
An innovation in the Exhibit Hall this year was the existence of an
Interfaith Family Festival area, presented in partnership with URI
Cooperation Circle Spiritual Playdate. This area was family friendly and
filled with activities and one of the festival stages. I chatted with various
of the presenters in the area about the games and exhibits they had
created to involve youth in climate change, religious education, hands-on
crafts and other things.
Also in the Exhibit Hall I stopped by organization booths, including the
Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry, the Ayahuasca Spiritual Traditions, Hindu
American Foundation, NAIN and the Interfaith Musical, among many
Having attended all of the modern Parliaments, I think it is clear that the
level of inclusiveness and diversity has increased. The Women's
programming that gained momentum in Salt Lake City has blossomed
into even more presentations and discussions of the "stained glass
ceiling" that keeps women out of positions in religious and nonprofit
institutions. The First Nations and Indigenous presence has grown and
become ever more integral to the event. Pagans have been at the
Parliament since 1993 and have an ever increasing role in planning and
creating space. And in Toronto we had a robust LGBTQQIA+ presence as
well. Additionally, The Parliament continues to be relevant to themes of
the environment from 1993's updated "Global 2000 Report" by Dr. Gerald
O. Barney to Barcelona's track on Sustainability and Water Issues to this
year's emphasis on Climate Change.
I was very honored to represent Covenant of the Goddess once again.
This is probably my last Parliament. Speculation about the next
Parliament being in India (not somewhere a wheelie is necessarily a great
traveler) or Singapore (not a place a queer person wants to go) make it
even more likely that I would attend. In fact, I will be hugely disappointed
if the Parliament decides on someplace like Singapore that criminalizes
LGBTQ+ people, especially after the welcoming given in Toronto.
(At the closing ceremony, PWR 2018)
Posted: 10th December 2018 Subject: More personal reports of PWR
More personal reports of PWR here
https://earthspiritvoic ... o2PnJmJJyAnM
starting with this one:
Parliament of World’s Religions 2018: A Personal Report
by Amanda Leigh-Hawkins
The Parliament of World’s Religions (PoWR) was held in Toronto, Canada November 1-7, 2018. The theme this year was “The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation and Change”. It gives me hope for humanity and the earth to have witnessed and participated in making a real difference. It was such a powerful experience to support and be part of this kind of shared interfaith, and international collaboration. The event was filled with high-magic, and deeply meaningful, intellectually inspiring, personal, educational, and transformational experiences. I was there formally representing The Troth as the Program Coordinator for The Troth’s International Relations and Exchange Program (IREP), and the Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry. I was also there to support paganism in general, and my local pagan EarthSpirit Community. This was my first interfaith event. I hear there were 10,000 delegates from 80 countries, 1600 presenters, 200 religious and spiritual traditions, and at minimum 100 pagans and Heathens in attendance this year, and perhaps as many as 300. I am grateful that pagans and Heathens were represented so well. It was like our own mini event within the larger one. So much happened at the Parliament that I can only do my best to describe my personal 2-day experience.
I remember first hearing about the PoWR from EarthSpirit Community members when I first met them around the year 2002. If I’m not mistaken, Earth Spirit has been attending since 1993. I’ve always respected, appreciated, and been inspired by the efforts and support that “the pagan contingent” have put into the Parliament, pagan community, and other shared values such as human/civil rights and protection of the environment. I have been particularly inspired by Andras Corban-Arthen, and Deidre Pulgram Arthen. I was thrilled to finally be able to attend.
EarthSpirit Community booth #911:
(From left to right: Amanda Leigh-Hawkins, Moira Ashleigh, Jennifer B., Will Thomas Rowan. Photo by Isobel Arthen.)
Posted: 18th December 2018 Subject: EcoCiv at the Parliament of the World's Religions
EcoCiv at the Parliament of the World's Religions
Advancing concrete change toward a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.
On Nov 5, EcoCiv helped plan and implement the Justice Assembly at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Watch the entire session here.
https://www.youtube.com ... =OTPcScyTlSg
Posted: 18th December 2018 Subject: Parliament of the World's Religions - you tube channel
Chief Ava Hill Commends Interfaith Relationships & Reconciliation
At the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions in Toronto on Nov. 1, Ava Hill - Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve - graced the program with a beautiful welcome to the traditional lands on which the #2018Parliament was hosted on Nov. 1 - 7. In her opening address, she recalled vast and moving experiences working with a wide-range of religions in the work of reconciliation, and told us the Parliament "is so important as it provides a venue for us to share our traditional spiritual knowledge that will provide inspiration and guidance for all of humanity as we continue to struggle with so many challenges in today's world."
Over the following 7 days, the 8300+ international attendees of the Parliament explored, "The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation and Change." One of six major sub-themes was led by Indigenous Peoples, called "The Spiritual Evolution of Humanity and Healing Our Mother Earth."
Posted: 29th January 2019 Subject: Pagan Presence at the Parliament of the World’s Religions
From THE WILD HUNT
Pagan Presence at the Parliament of the World’s Religions
Sean McShee — November 14, 2018
TORONTO — From Nov. 1 through Nov. 7, the Parliament of the World’s Religions took place in Toronto, Ontario. Organizers estimated that 10,000 people from 80 countries would attend the event in Canada. The Parliament may be the largest interfaith event in the world.
Before the Parliament began, the Wild Hunt spoke with four Pagans about interfaith work and the Parliament. Three went to the Parliament. One had to cancel at the last minute.
Rev. Jennifer Bennett represented Covenant of the Goddess at the Parliament. Felicity Grove, also of Covenant of the Goddess, had planned on going to the Toronto conference but was unable to do so.
Jennifer Bennett [Courtesy]
Rev. Jerrie Hildebrand has attended three Parliaments prior to the Toronto conference. President of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Hildebrand is also a minister at Circle Sanctuary. Ethan Stark represented Heathens Against Hate (HAH). While HAH is an “independent branch of the Troth, ” people can join HAH without becoming a Troth member.
Ethan Stark [Courtesy]
Bennett sits on her local interfaith council. Local Christian churches often ask her to speak at their services. Bennett also writes for her local paper’s “Faith Matters” section.
Grove identified five key points of Pagan interfaith work. First, Pagans should have “a seat at the interfaith table. ” Second, Pagans can provide a Pagan perspective, such as non-duality, to solving common problems. Third, Pagans can provide a “a different spiritual experience. ” Fourth, Pagans doing interfaith work challenges negative stereotypes about Pagans. Five, interfaith work provides Pagans with a chance to model core Pagan values.
According to Hildebrand, interfaith work happens when people of many traditions cooperate. Working together for social justice moves people beyond labels.
Pagans at the Parliament
Hildebrand reported that she has not found any anti-Pagan hostility at any of the three Parliaments she attended. Bennett also found no anti-Pagan bias at a previous Parliament. She found only “openness, genuine curiosity and a positive community spirit. ”
Fifteen spiritual traditions had multiple sessions at the Parliament. The Pagan tradition had 16 sessions. In one of these 16 sessions, Alice Walker narrated a film, “” Yemanja: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil. ”
Main themes of the Parliament
Hildebrand said that the Parliament had four main themes. One theme involved moral and spiritual perspectives on climate change. A second theme focused on the generational transfer of spiritual knowledge and experience. The third theme examined moral and spiritual perspectives about the rights of indigenous peoples. The fourth theme concerned ways to change a violent and hate-filled world into a peaceful one.
According to Hildebrand, the following Pagans made presentations at the Parliament: Andras Corban Arthen, Selena Fox, Patrick McCollum, Don Lewis, Phyllis Curott, Angie Buchanan, Dennis Carpenter, and Jake Bradley among others.
Heathens Against Hate
According to Stark, Heathens Against Hate (HAH) advocates for inclusive Heathen practices, using education and community initiatives to challenge hate and bigotry among Heathens.
HAH staffed the Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry booth. This booth provided information on other inclusive Heathen groups. HAH took part in a panel discussion titled “Striving to save a Religious Identity from Extremists. ”
White supremacy and misogyny occur in other traditions besides Heathenry. Stark has found those elements in some Slavic Pagan beliefs and sometimes in Hellenic Reconstructionism. Stark said, “The conscious and unconscious bigotry and misogyny is on an individual level. ” He cautioned that history and location may make certain traditions vulnerable to white supremacy and misogyny. The subtle nature of biased beliefs and practices pose a great challenge.
All spiritual traditions have tendencies towards bias. “Heathenry, like other reconstructionist faiths, relies on correct practice based on sourced written and archaeological records. ” Those records reflect a lost and fragmented tradition. This sometimes means relying on personal interpretation. This subjective interpretation can allow “ignorant or willful bigotry” to corrupt the tradition.
Stark sees no problem if someone feels their ancestry and heritage connects them to the gods. When they claim that that connection has greater validity than other claims, it reflects bias. Stark stressed, “This idea of genetic lineage being not only paramount, but necessary for Heathen worship makes it bigoted. ”
Attendance at the Parliament provided HAH an opportunity to represent the Heathen faith. HAH used this opportunity to challenge negative stereotypes about Pagans in general and Heathens in particular.
Many people conflate Heathen images with white supremacist iconography. Stark said that heathen tattoos or jewelry have elicited reactions ranging from “glares to outright accusations. ”
Like other Pagan faiths, Heathenry is relatively unknown. Stark cautioned, “Our [Heathen] symbols are used by hate groups when they rally, protest, and commit violence. Non-pagan/non-Heathen audiences are likely to see this first and foremost, prior to any knowledge of Heathenry. ” He stressed that Heathens must first explain what Heathenry is, before explaining what it is not.
According to Stark, this effort is occurring in other parts of the world. The Troth’s International Relations and Exchange Program hosted FrithForge in Germany last year. This international conference of Heathen representatives hosted workshops, lectures, and community worship services. HAH has compiled a list of inclusive Heathen groups throughout the world. Many inclusive Heathen groups “participated in FrithForge and have openly denounced extremism. ”
“Heathens Against Hate strives to provide a beacon for those wishing to know the northern gods, honor the ancestors, and revel in a strong spiritual community without prejudice. ” Stark explained, “We do so through education, reformation of former extremists, and community initiatives. ” Heathens Against Hate welcomes all who welcome all.
For those who were unable to attend the Parliament, some sessions are now available online such as a panel conversation on “Reclaiming the Indigenous Ethnic Religions of Europe” with Andras Corban Arthen, Inija Trinkūnienė and Vlassis G. Rassias, board members of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions.
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