- Written by Michael Mickler
The Parliament of the World's Religions is the world's largest interreligious gathering. It first convened in 1893 in Chicago as part of the World Columbian Exposition, an early world's fair. By far the largest of the congresses held in conjunction with the Exposition, the Parliament marked the first formal gathering of representatives of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions and is now recognized as the occasion of the birth of formal interreligious dialogue worldwide. A centennial celebration of the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions, attended by over 8000 people from all over the world, was reconvened in Chicago in 1993. Since then, a Parliament of the World's Religions has convened every five years in a major international city (Chicago 1993, Cape Town 1999, Barcelona 2004, and Melbourne 2009).
The recent Melbourne Parliament, which ran from December 3-9, 2009, brought together more than 6,000 participants from 80 nationalities and more than 220 faith traditions. It included some 450 events (keynote addresses, seminars, conferences, debates, performances, concerts and exhibitions) and such luminaries as former U.S. President Jimmy carter, the Dalia Lama, and Thích Nhất Hạnh. In a surprise, the Obama Administration sent high level religious representatives who met in a closed door session with select delegates about how to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. In addition, more than 100 U.S. Christian seminarians and faculty attended as beneficiaries of a Henry Luce Foundation program titled "Prepare Religious Leaders for a Multi-Religious World."
Given the stature of the event, UTS is pleased to report that one of its alums, Enrique Ledesma ('92), was the speaker in a Parliament "Intrareligious" session. As the National Director of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) and the Universal Peace Foundation (UPF) in Australia, Enrique presented a PowerPoint on "The Life and Teachings of Dr. Rev. Sun Myung Moon." Rev. Moon has long been a strong proponent and supporter of ecumenism and interreligious peace-building, having founded UTS in 1975 as an institution dedicated to "interreligious, interracial and international unity." In his presentation, Enrique covered Rev. Moon's background, core teachings, vision for peace, and numerous peace initiatives including World Peace Marriage Blessings and initiatives at the UN and Middle East. This was the first time the Unification movement was included in the program and the life and works of our Founder presented at the PWR.
Since graduating from UTS, Enrique has had a rich and varied career on three continents. He served with the International Education Foundation and the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP) in Kalmykia, Southern Russia (1992-95), as Business Manager for Tiempos del Mundo newspaper in Ecuador (1996-2003), and Secretary General of FFWPU and UPF in Oceania (2004-08) prior to his current position. Enrique and his wife Robyn, also a UTS graduate, reside in Sydney, Australia with their three daughters. Enrique commented that the Unification movement's participation in the PWR "will be a major boost and position us more strongly as an important player in the interfaith movement."
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