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Interfaith leaders converge in Chicago to address authoritarianism

Over 6,000 individuals representing various faiths and belief systems are expected to gather in Chicago from August 14 for what is being described as the world’s largest assembly of interfaith leaders. The event, known as the Parliament of the World’s Religions, is returning to its place of origin, as the organization was initially established in Chicago in 1893. Participants from more than 80 countries have attended previous gatherings. This year’s event will feature speakers and presenters from a wide range of faith traditions, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha’i, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Indigenous religions, paganism, and more. The theme for this year’s Parliament is “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights.” The focus of the event will be on addressing global challenges such as combating authoritarianism, climate change, racism, human rights violations, women’s rights and food insecurity.

National Catholic Reporter reports:

More than 6,000 people representing scores of religions and belief systems are expected to convene in Chicago starting August 14 for what organizers bill as the world’s largest gathering of interfaith leaders.

For the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the week-long event marks a return to its roots – the organization was founded in Chicago in 1893. In the past 30 years, it has convened six times, most recently in Toronto in 2018.

Past gatherings have drawn participants from more than 80 nations. This week’s speakers and presenters will represent Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Baha’i, Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Indigenous religions, paganism and other beliefs.

This year’s theme is “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights,” with a focus on combating authoritarianism around the world. Topics on the agenda include climate change, human rights, food insecurity, racism and women’s rights.

“We will take a stand for the rights we’re all at risk of losing,” said the Rev. Stephen Avino, the organization’s executive director.

Scheduled speakers include U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and actor Rainn Wilson, a member of the Baha’i faith. The keynote speaker will be Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson.

Illustrative of the parliament’s diversity, its program chair for this week’s event is Phyllis Curott, a Wiccan priestess who as an author and lawyer has advocated for the legal rights of witches.

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