Sadie Stone ’10 M.Div.: Reflecting on the Parliament of the World’s Religions

Editor’s note:  A number of Yale-related students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the Dec. 3-9 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Melbourne, Australia, including a contingent of YDS students who participated in a special symposium program at the Parliament, “Educating Religious Leaders for a Multi-Religious World."  Fifteen American seminaries and divinity schools participated in the seminar, which was funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.  Leading the YDS student group were Kristen Leslie, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling, and Yale University Chaplain Sharon Kugler.  Current YDS students participating included Elizabeth Bonney, Liza Butler, Hilary Camblos, James Christie, Ding Zacharia Akol, Craig Robinson, Denice Kelley, Sadie Stone, Mike Anderson, and Rachel Heath.  YDS faculty and staff attending were senior research scholars John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Director of External Relations John Lindner, and ISM Administrator Andrea Hart.  Among alumni at the Parliament were Danielle Tumminio ’03 B.A., ’06 M.Div., ’08 S.T.M.; Bruce Rigdon ’62 B.D., ‘’68 Ph.D.; Allison Stokes ’81 M.Div., ’81 Ph.D.; Donald Swearer ’62 B.D., ’63 S.T.M.; and Nancy Swearer ’64 M.A.R.  Leslie and Kugler moderated a symposium session on “Practical Initiatives and Examples of Multi-religious Education,” while YDS students participated in a panel entitled “What We’ve Learned...What Next Steps We Hope to Take.”

Sadie Stone ’10 M.Div. wrote the following reflection on her experience at the Parliament.

Click here to view a slide show of the Parliament with photos of, or taken by, Yale participants.

TuckerThe 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia included thousands of participants from around the globe, representing the diversity of the world’s religious traditions. Together we spent a week in dialogue discussing this year’s theme, “Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the Earth.” During my seven days I met many people, attended a variety of programming, and was moved at some of the work and applications so many individuals of all faiths are doing around the world trying to answer the question, “What can we do?”

I had the unique opportunity to interact, engage, and learn with and from individuals from all over the world, including students from 15 North American theological institutions as we took time each day to work together to address concerns surrounding interfaith dialogue from our primarily Christian contexts.

The most valuable aspect of the parliament for me was the opportunity to learn from participants representing faith traditions of which I had little knowledge. I spent time with several members of the Sikh tradition, for example, who traveled to Australia from England. In talking with them and other delegates from the European countries, I was introduced to some of the unique challenges presented to the faith traditions in Europe, and some of the ways the various traditions are attempting to address those concerns.    

Additionally, the parliament provided an opportunity to examine my own Christian faith and the ways my faith both calls me to—and hinders my ability to—engage in interfaith dialogue. A panel presentation titled “Addressing the Shadow in Our Own Tradition” led by women representing the Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist faith traditions focused on areas of faith and sacred texts that are often misused and misinterpreted. It provided an occasion for me to reflect on my own Christian faith and my struggles with interpretations and practices in my tradition— and the ways I am called to continue to challenge those teachings as I pursue my ministry.

GroupMore than anything, the Parliament of the World’s Religions affirmed the importance of interfaith engagement in our global community to address and strive for justice around the world. With the diversity of religions represented, it goes without saying that some are outside the mainstream. Yet even so, what I saw exhibited by the participants was a kindness and a willingness to listen and learn from one another.

Ultimately, the parliament is a starting point that raised concerns and awareness about the many seemingly insurmountable issues that plague our world.  There were panels on poverty, violence against women, hunger, depression, and indigenous rights, among many others. Now the real work of the parliament begins as other participants and I take this information and apply it to our own contexts, ministries, and faith traditions.