Faith leaders build bridges at the Parliament of the World’s Religions

The author Leonard Mtaita from Tanzania, stands posing in the middle of a group of saffron-robed Buddhist monks at the Parliament of the World's Religions
At the invitation of The United Church of Canada, Global Guest Leonard Mtaita attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in November 2018.
Credit: Courtesy of Leonard Mtaita
Published On: April 16, 2019

It was a great opportunity to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in Toronto November 1-8, 2018. The theme of the Parliament, The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation and Change – fits well with mandate of the organization I work with, the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA). This theme is so important to the African continent that I was surprised and disappointed there were not more representatives from Africa there. (*See editor's note below.)

For me personally, and for the work PROCMURA is doing, the Parliament has been an important experience. The plenaries and displays were all important.

A plenary session focusing on “Countering War, Hate and Violence – Peace and Love, Not War, Hate and Violence” was particularly meaningful. Our African continent faces this challenge on a daily basis and the theme spoke directly to the work PROCMURA is doing. As religious leaders, we are called to live by, and embody love.

As a Christian, the number and range of exhibits made me both curious and thoughtful about my faith and other faith traditions.

As interesting as the plenaries and exhibits were the workshops and seminars were where I found the most engagement and opportunity to network with others of like mind.

Two of those most meaningful workshops to me personally, and to the work PROCMURA is doing, were “Strengthening Interfaith Dialogue for Peace Building” and “Speaking Truth to Power: Inviting Declarations on Religion, Justice and Peace.”

The first workshop was led by four leaders of different faith traditions, finding common ground in love. God is Love and Love is God — unconditional, giving and forgiving. Individuals who live with inner peace and love extend that peace and love to others. This is a call to all world religions to be in the forefront of resolving hatred and conflict in favour of love and peace.

The second workshop called on faith and leaders of faith to use their spiritual wisdom, to speak the whole truth to ruling powers when they see injustice and violence. There are many pressures acting against this. Self-interest, a desire to maintain power and politicization of religion can act to silence faith leaders. However, if a religious leader remains silent in the face of injustice, they are part of that injustice.

The messages of these two workshops were humbling, inspiring, and highlighted for me the importance of PROCMURA’s work in building bridges between the Muslim and Christian faiths in Africa.

At the Parliament, I was able to connect with others working on similar issues as we joined our voices, hearts, and minds in the cause of peace, love and justice. I thank The United Church of Canada for making it possible for me to represent PROCMURA at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

—Leonard Mtaita, former General Secretary of the Christian Council of Tanzania, is the Interim General Adviser for the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA), a United Church of Canada Mission & Service partner. PROCMURA is a pan-African Christian organization founded in 1959. It works to build good relations and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims on the Continent of Africa.

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(*Editor's note: It is our experience that the lack of Africans attending the Parliament in Toronto is not because of lack of interest from African organizations. One contributing factor in our experience is that the Canadian visa process has become increasingly challenging for applicants from African countries with many applicants being denied.)


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