Five JPII Leaders at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago

The JPII Center sponsored a panel at this year Parliament of World Religions that took place this August in Chicago. Rabbi Allyson Zacharoff (cohort VI, USA), Elyse Brazel (cohort VIII, Canada), and Evans Nyamadzawo (cohort XIV, Zimbabwe) were the speakers for the panel discussion entitled “Working Together to Heal Relationships and the Earth: The Partnership of Dialogue and Climate Action”.

“We began with interfaith perspectives on the care Nyamadzawo of the Earth: the Jewish concept of shmita—giving rest to the land—and its role in Jewish ethics, and the ecumenical Christian concept of kairos, reconciliation with nature. In considering these concepts and traditions, we consider how our relationships with the earth can encourage us to reconsider our ethics of relationships in interfaith spaces,” shares Rabbi Zacharoff.  

The panel offered as well concrete interfaith initiatives two organizations—“Faith and the Common Good” in Canada and “Missions Work Africa Relief Organization” in Zimbabwe—are pursuing to advance climate justice, especially among and in dialogue with indigenous communities.

“I talked about my work as an Organizer with The Calgary Alliance for the Common Good bringing people from our member institutions of different backgrounds (religious and secular) together to work on climate change adaptation strategy and funding at the Municipal level,” tells Brazel who presented about one initiative she is involved with advocating for climate action in the budget plan of Calgary City Council which resulted in the City Council announcing $40 million additional spending on that. “In this work to heal the earth, we need both the spiritual transformation of our hearts but also the practical tangible actions,” Brazel concludes.

“The book of Genesis records the first vertical relationship between man and God, and second relationship of man and nature then relationship with other human beings. Holistic Reconciliation is not complete without the Ecological dimension,” affirms Nyamadzawo He highlighted Christian perspectives to overcome climate challenges from scholars such as Norman Habel and Jürgen Moltmann.

In Chicago there were other JPII Leaders: Nazar Sloboda (cohort VII, Ukraine) contributed to a panel offering diverse Christian reflections on the War on Ukraine and “Towards a Global Ethic (An Initial Declaration),” a statement signed at the Parliament in 1993 of basic moral commitments held in common by the world’s religions, in light of the recent Pastoral Letter from Archbishop John Wester on disarmament.

Prof. Andrew (A.J.) Boyd (cohort II, USA) was invited to participate as a KACIID fellow, contributing to the development of a North American network of individual alumni and interfaith institutions, and as a collaborator of the Seattle University Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions was initially gathered in 1893 as just one of many such ‘parliaments’ and ‘conventions’ taking place in the context of the World’s Fair and Exposition, held in Chicago that year. It is often regarded as the singular event that launched modern interreligious dialogue, introducing many in North America to representatives of the Dharmic religions, and to the diversity of religions beyond the three major Abhramic faiths, for the first time.

In anticipation of the centenary, 1993, local Chicago faith leaders wanted to celebrate by calling together another Parliament, and the event has been held irregularly in the years since. This was the seventh in-person Parliament in the last 30 years, and the second to be held in Chicago. Others have been in Cape Town (1999), Barcelona (2004), Melbourne (2009), Salt Lake City (2015), Toronto (2018). In 2021, an online mini-Parliament was held during the pandemic. 

Allyson had just started her position as a congregational rabbi in New Jersey the same week as Parliament. Elyse is an Organizer with the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good in Calgary. Evans is a pastor and seminary professor in Zimbabwe now studying in the US at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace. Nazar is a Ukrainian Catholic scholar currently working in Philadelphia. A.J. is a seminary and university professor currently based in Seattle.