World's Largest Inter-Religious Gathering to Descend Upon Australia

Thousands of representatives of the world's religions will convene in Australia for the 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions.

An estimated 8,000-12,000 people will meet in Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 3-9, 2009, to dialogue, build interfaith relationships, and discuss critical issues facing the global community.

Adherents of a wide range of religious traditions will be present including: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Baha'i Jain, and Zoroastrian.

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"The Parliament event is a place where people come together to encounter 'the other,'" organizers state in the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions (CPWR) website. "This encounter can lead to a deepening of one's own sense of religious and spiritual identity and an appreciation for the challenges or difference within one's own tradition, as well as between and among traditions."

The 2009 Parliament will feature 500 events such as dialogues, workshops, performances and plenaries on religious identity.

Emerging topics for the gathering include social cohesion, poverty, the environment, indigenous peoples, and terrorism. Other issues that will be address are indigenous reconciliation, environmental degradation and care, gender issues including sex trafficking, education and the challenge of social disengagement, forced migration, global terrorism, and the role of religion in modern societies.

Pre-parliament events in 40 cities are slated to take place around the world to highlight the upcoming event in Australia.

Melbourne was selected as the host city because of its multi-religious, multi-lingual, and multicultural environment, according to organizers. The city is praised for demonstrating collaboration among its religious communities through inter-religious councils, school programs, and solidarity in times of stress and crisis. Melbourne has also formed a council that works to ensure ongoing collaboration between religious leaders and police.

"Melbourne's social policy model fosters cohesion and harmony in a multicultural and multi-religious society," commented CPWR.

Previous gatherings were held in Chicago (1993), Cape Town (1999) and Barcelona (2004).

Plans are currently underway for a 2007 Universal Forum of Cultures in Monterrey, Mexico. The forum will include Parliament-style events and dialogues addressing issues such as religious and spiritual diversity, bioethics, violence, the plight of the marginalized and the role of religion and spirituality in society.

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