Reverend Imam Malik Mujahid, chairman of The Parliament of the World’s Religions (PWR), wrapped up the ISOL Foundation’s fifth international conference in Chicago with a call to India to host the 2020 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Iman Mujahid paid homage to Swami Vivekananda’s iconic greeting of 1893 “Brothers and Sister of America”, and the conference, too, was symbolically held in the Arts Institute of Chicago, the venue where Vivekananda delivered his inspirational address. The Swami is the totem of the WPR and the wider interfaith movement.
The ISOL Foundation exists to “integrate spirituality into organisational leadership”. Following in the footsteps of Shri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda the conference examined the clinical evidence linking performance to spirituality, leadership skills, ethical qualities, the role of women, sustainable economies and the cosmic power of God.
The Reverend Imam Malik warned that hate crime, war, the acquisition of guns and nuclear weapons were rising worldwide. He announced that today 15,685 nuclear weapons exist and the radius at risk around India and Pakistan is 2 billion people, one third of humanity.
Out of the 60 or so speakers, three referenced Vivekananda’s impassioned appeal for the end of fanaticism and violence. Swami Nikhileshwarananda from Vadodara lamented the collapse of civilisations and global peace. Professor Makarand Paranjape, poet and professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, opined that ignorance may turn art and religion into weapons of destruction, as witnessed at the Twin Towers. This reporter spoke about ethical values common to all faiths; how the concept of Sanatana Dharma was an effective protection against extremism and that engagement with all faiths could promote economic mobility and equal opportunities for everyone.
The event, organised by Sunita Singh Sengupta, was supported by the distinguished Dr J.L. Raina. The panels featured academics, scientists, economists, and spiritual leaders.
Gauri Shankar Gupta, High Commissioner of India for Trinidad and Tobago quoted verses from the Rig Veda and the Upanishads that explain the mysteries of life. He condemned trishna, or greed, as a malignant force in economic development, and called for a further look at the Gandhian Model of economics. Saroja Gullapalli, a senior corporate professional in the oil and gas sector from Australia, impressed everyone with her cross referencing between the Vedic scriptures and Confucianism. Dr Bruce Cook, a sprightly 75-year-old, who is vice president of Worldwide Peace Organization, observed that the interfaith movement had not yet explored the social media possibilities for communicating the message of cohesion and tolerance. Corné Bekker, Professor of biblical and ecclesial leadership for the School of Business & Leadership at Regent University, USA, delivered a charismatic portrait of the early life of St Francis of Assisi and his passionate sentient excesses before he became a saint, making the point that spiritual transformation is available for everyone, anytime.