A "spiritual summit" bringing together 1,000 of the world's religious and spiritual leaders is being organized by the United Nations next August-the first such gathering in the UN's 54-year history. The Millennium World Peace Summit, as the gathering is known, will take place from August 28 to 31, 2000 just days before the world's political leaders gather for the UN Millennium Heads of State Summit.
"Our dream is to get the pre-eminent religious leaders to the UN so they can support the peace process, in concert with the political bodies there," Bawa Jain, the executive co-ordinator of the world peace summit, said today 3 December in Cape Town.
"I definitely feel that the religious and spiritual communities can play a substantial role in easing tensions in the world zones of conflict," he added.
UN secretary-general Kofi Annan will give the welcoming address at the religious summit.
"Ultimately, this first-ever council of senior religious and spiritual advisers will be established as a resource to the UN secretary-general, and its members could be 'parachuted' into trouble spots," Jain said.
Jain was speaking at a media briefing held during the 1999 Parliament of World Religions, which opened in Cape Town on 1 December. Much of the work and discussions of the 10-day parliament will be channeled into next August's gathering of religious leaders.
Almost 6,000 international and local spiritual leaders, theologians and believers from the world's major religions are attending the parliament, which includes a wide range of talks, symposia, plenary sessions, workshops, worship and meditation.
Western secular clothes and clerical garb were juxtaposed at the opening ceremony with flowing saffron robes, red cassocks and orange Buddhist robes, blue turbans and white scarves.
"The parliament is grounded in the certainty that without the insight, energy, inspiration and goodwill of the world's religions and spiritual communities, there can be no real answers to the daunting problems we all face at the beginning of a new century," a welcoming document said.
Only a small group of Muslim extremists protested against the PWR on the opening day. They asked why "Satanists" were gathered in Cape Town, accused the parliament of being a "Zionist conspiracy" and claimed that "Islam is the only way of life."
However, the leaders of all of Cape Town's faith communities support the gathering which is taking place on the campus of the Cape Technikon tertiary institution, at the foot of the world-famous Table Mountain, and at various venues in the city center and suburbs.
For those who are overwhelmed by the marketplace of possibilities vying for their attention, a relaxing transcendental meditation workshop is available on the green grass of the Technikon open-air amphitheater. Standing under the hot African sun or in the shade of the trees, they listen to the soothing voice of a guru and shake off all the tensions and the information overload.
Copyright © 1999 Ecumenical News International. Used with permission.
See today's related Parliament of the World's Religions story, "Help Us Develop Our Souls, Mandela Tells World Religious Leaders | Former South Africa president awarded by Parliament of the World's Religions"
The Parliament of the World's Religions South Africa site has a program of the meeting and daily highlights.
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