The positive energy in the Exhibition Hall of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was palpable as representatives of 220 of the world’s faith traditions came together in all their diversity for the seventh Parliament of the World’s Religions. The hall reverberated with the rhythm of drumbeats, and the aisle between rows of seats swirled with vibrant colours as a parade of drummers and dancers of the host First Nations, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Mississaugas of the Credit Valley gave the assembled guests a rousing welcome to Toronto, their traditional home territory, now the most highly populated city in Canada, and a microcosm of the entire world’s cultures and races.
The goal of the gathering, which runs from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7, is to find common ground within this diversity and to discover practical ways of harnessing their combined voices to combat the polarization and divisiveness that too often mark the world of geopolitics today, and to create a more inclusive, just and sustainable world.
Nearly 10,000 people from Canada and around the world are expected to converge on Toronto for this purpose, intrigued by the city’s reputation as a haven of multi-faith harmony.
Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, herself an immigrant from Northern Ireland, emphasized in her special opening address the importance of faith to the development of Canada as a nation.
“The faith perspective was critical to the development of this country,” she said. “It’s from that perspective that we learned early lessons in social justice.”
Dowdeswell said that while we may practice different faiths, we can all agree on a vision of a more just and caring world.
“We all want a world that works for everyone,” she said. “We want to see an inclusive world where economic justice prevails, and the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals are met.”