Delegates on the stage at the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah. Toronto will be hosting the next gathering between Oct. 31-Nov. 7, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Museum of World Religions

Toronto to host Parliament of World Religions in 2018

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  • April 26, 2017

More than 10,000 delegates from 80 countries representing some 200 religious, spiritual and indigenous traditions are expected in Toronto for the seventh Parliament of World Religions Oct. 31-Nov. 7, 2018.

A memorandum of understanding confirming that Toronto will be the site for the largest interfaith event in the world will be signed this week, The Catholic Register has learned. A press conference to announce the event is scheduled for May 2 at Toronto’s City Hall.

With a projected $6 million budget the event is being staged at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre by an independent corporation with the support of the City of Toronto and Mayor John Tory. Former Liberal and NDP leader Bob Rae is chairing the Parliament’s Toronto Advisory Council.

Organizers are not ready to reveal a preliminary list of speakers and religious leaders attending, but past speakers have included the Dalai Lama, South African President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and primatologist Jane Goodall.

The Parliament of World Religions has convened infrequently since its first meeting at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The idea lay mostly dormant for the next 100 years, but was revived in a big way in 1983 with a convention of over 8,000 people in Chicago. At that meeting, Catholic theologian Hans Kung presented a declaration called Towards a Global Ethic based largely on the Golden Rule. The keynote address was given by the Dalai Lama.

The 1999 parliament held in Cape Town, South Africa featured Mandela and tackled the ethical and religious challenges of the AIDS pandemic. A 2004 parliament in Barcelona concentrated on environmental and water issues. In 2007 in Mexico the parliament took part in a smaller event concentrated on the Millennium Development Goals. Aboriginal issues were front and centre at the 2009 Melbourne gathering. A 2014 meeting of the Parliament of World Religions fell through when Brussels couldn’t raise the money to host it. A 2015 parliament took place at Salt Lake City, Utah with nearly 10,000 in attendance. At that point it was announced the Parliament of World Religions would become a bi-annual event from that point on.

Parliament of World Religions representatives from at least 20 countries were lobbying for Toronto to become the site for the 2018 event, said Toronto organizer Chander Khanna. At least six of them are still exploring applications for future meetings, according to Chicago organizers.

Toronto’s reputation as a multicultural, multifaith city convinced the Chicago-based international network of interfaith activists.

“Canada ranks very, very high in terms of other people’s estimation,” Khanna said.

Toronto organizers have been working on the proposal for about 18 months.

(Editor’s note: This story has been modified to clarify the Parliament of World Religion’s use of the Metropolitan Convention Centre, attendance at the Salt Lake City parliament, the nature of the event in Mexico and the bid process.)

jane goodall webJane Goodall speaking at the Parliament of the World’s Religion in Salt Lake City, Utah Oct. 19, 2015. Toronto will be hosting the 2018 gathering between Oct. 31-Nov.7, 2018. (RNS photo/Anne Marie Hankins)

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