The Parliament of the World's Religions, Barcelona Spain (July 2004)
By Phil Wetzel

The mission of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions is to cultivate harmony between the world's religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its other guiding institutions in order to achieve a peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

The Parliament of the World's Religions held its inaugural event as part of the Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago. This historic gathering is widely regarded as the beginning of the inter-religious movement worldwide. It took until the year 1993 (the 100th anniversary of the original meeting) before the Second Parliament was convened in Chicago. Eight thousand people from around the world came together to share their identities, to celebrate diversity and harmony, and to explore religious and spiritual responses to critical issues facing the global community.

In 1999, the Third Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa called the world's attention to the inter-religious movement's powerful contribution to overcoming apartheid and building a new South Africa. This year, the Fourth Parliament held in Barcelona, Spain attracted more than 8,000 religious leaders (Rev. Dirk Ficca, the Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions Executive Director; Rabbi David Rosen; Rev. Charles Gibbs, United Religions Initiative executive director and hundreds more) and lay people (Nobel Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi, well-known doctor and author Deepak Chopra, Jane Goodall, Raimon Pannikar, Dr. Federico Zaragoza -- former Director General of UNESCO -- and thousands more, including me) gathering to address "Overcoming Religiously Motivated Violence" and other major issues facing the world (such as "Access to Clean Water", "Supporting Refugees", and "Eliminating the Burden of International Debt on Poor Countries").

I have been privileged to work for PAX 2100 ( as its executive director for the past two and a half years. The vision and goal of PAX 2100 is the economic, political, and social wellness of all individuals, cultures, and nations in a global framework that assures each person: PEACE, justice, the right of retaining cultural identity, fair access to the earth's resources, health care, education, the right and opportunity to work, freedom of speech, and religion, the right to move freely around the world and to participate in its governance.

Holding to this vision has been the most difficult and rewarding endeavor I have ever been involved with. It has taken me to new places, conferences, and countless meetings with nonprofit representatives from around the world. One of the greatest pleasures for me in this work has been my involvement with the Interfaith Initiative of Santa Barbara County, the Goleta Presbyterian Church and now the Parliament for the World's Religions. Our work has focused on the myriad ways in which we can all come to a better understanding of the religious diversity in the world and how this understanding might lead us in developing a "Culture of Peace". Through open dialogue and with open hearts and minds we strive to understand, accept, and learn from each other about the major religions and traditions that make up the framework of the world's spiritual movement.

We have come to the consensus that the major religions have so much more in common than ways in which they differ. I am referring mostly to the common values shared between the various faith traditions, like the Golden Rule, which when translated from the various spiritual texts is almost identical (treat others in the way you wish to be treated -- simply love one another). This has been beautifully summarized by a good friend of PAX 2100, Religious Studies Professor Nandini Ayer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as follows: "He who loves, lives; he who loves himself lives in hell; he who loves another lives on earth; he who loves others lives in heaven; but he who silently adores the Self of all creatures, lives in that Self, and it is Eternal PEACE." This statement and the Golden Rule (what many consider to be the universal message of religion) is the easiest way I can describe the work of this year's Parliament.

By focusing on the theme of this year's Parliament, "Pathways to Peace: the Wisdom of Listening, the Power of Commitment", I can envision a world in which we come to understand and tolerate our differences and celebrate our commonalities. With a simple and profound act of treating each other in ways that we wish to be treated, miracles can and do occur.

For more information on the Parliament please visit and .

Phil Wetzel is the executive Director of PAX 2100. He has worked on a variety of electrical engineering projects, one of them on infrared detectors for the Hubble Telescope.