Parliament of World Religions

By Arvind Vora 

The Parliament of the World’s Religions exists to cultivate and promote inter-religious harmony rather than unity.

The 10th PoWR as was the first one took place in Chicago, USA.

The PoWR Board has 35 trustees, including current Chair Nitin Ajmera. It has many committees and subcommittees for an efficient execution of the grand event, including permanent skeleton staff. The last nine PoWR were held regularly but on an irregular schedule either due to lack of host, natural calamity like COVID or financial constraints.

One thing has remained constant that all in-person PoWR had the generosity of Sikh community who provided Langar (Guru Ka Langar) everyday as a lunch regardless of the number of attendees and who they were.

Everyday plenary session of 2 to 2:5 hours as well as a unique theme assembly of two hours took place. There were several Art Exhibitions(25), Children Events, Community Events(7), Film Festivals that included @ 40 films, some of films of interest to South Asians are on a sidebar.

The most demanding and frustrating part was everyday sessions (panel presentations), not because of changes in schedule, timing, cancellations etc. but sheer number of panels to choose from. There were a total of 750 sessions: 90 on Monday August 14; 160 on Tuesday August 15;
190 on Wednesday August 16; 190 on Thursday August 17 and 120 on Friday August 18,2023. It wasn’t unusual to see only committed audiences of single digit while presenters could be three to ten.

PoWR parade chugged off on Sunday, August 13 with participants from many faiths. The Jain contingent included Arvind Vora, Shefali Ajmera, Nitin Ajmera, Ashish Mehta, Acharya Lokesh Muni ji, Rasik Sanghvi, Samani Jina Pragya ji, and Samani Kshanti Pragya ji (L to R in the front row).

 

Temple Dwaar Opening Ceremony in the main exhibition area

 

One of the best religious-cultural items performed was by the youngsters from the Chicago Metropolitan Jain Society.
Standing (L to R): Minal Dagli, Monika Shah, Varsha Parekh, Jagruti Dagli, Samani Jina Pragya Ji, Samani Pratibha Pragya Ji, Sahar Alsahlani ( self declared Jain), Samani Punya Pragya Ji, Samani Kshanti Pragya Ji, Arvind Vora, Nisha Shah, & Rinal Shah.
Seated (L to R): Anjali Shah, Rujul Shah, Harshi Dagli(choreographer), Riya Parekh, Vruddhi Dagli, Jahanvi Jain, Aayushi Shah, Haley Shah, Yashvi Shah, Tanvi Shah, Diya Shah, & Kasak Shah

 

Nem Rajul Drama: A story of a legendary 22nd Tirthankara Neminath have been performed by most Jain centers that conveyed a royal life, need for the prince to get married and all of a sudden the prince find the celebrations including screaming, torture and killing of animals for festivities totally unacceptable and unbearable for the prince. The prince takes a route of self inspections, ascetic life and ultimate salvation. It was a long show with english subtitles. It was a great performance that sure required lots of practice.Photo shows most of the participants.

 

Nem Rajul Drama: Close relatives of the prince perform pre-wedding rituals, here it is turmeric paste applied on the face.

 

Sacred Music Night: Kummar Chatterjee enthralled the audience, as he has in the past PoWRs, by the Jain mantras.

 

Sacred Music Night: Ashish Mehta performs a divine song.

 

One of the impressive highlights of the PoWR was a surprised or well kept secret of Rev. Jesse Jackson gracing the event on a Sacred Music Night on Thursday, August 17. He has played a key role over half a century to carry on the legacy of the civil rights movement, including contesting for the presidency of the USA. He received a standing ovation and several hand claps during his speech. Rev. Jesse Jackson in the wheelchair is flanked by his daughter and Congressman Bobby Rush and Nitin Ajmera.

 

Arvind Vora with Congressman Bobby Rush who is also a chair of the host committee of PoWR and a member of the Board of Trustees of PoWR.

 

(L to R): Sudhir Shah, Arvind Vora, and Parveen Chopra. Shah’s Vegan has created safest and most effective plant based products combining the best of eastern traditions and his molecular biology expertise of western science.

 

1893 Chicago As part of the World Columbian Exposition
1993 Chicago Revival as part of the 100th anniversary
1999 CapeTown, South Africa
2004 Barcelona, Spain Pathways to Peace
2009 Melbourne, Australia Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth
2015 Salt Lake City, USA Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity
2018 Toronto, Canada Power of Love (125th Anniversary)
2021 Virtual Due to COVID Compassion in Action
2023 Chicago, USA Defending Freedom & Human Rights

 

Detailed List of Jain Programming at Chicago Final

The Land of Ahimsa
Kasturba Gandhi
Yug Purush
Ganga Aarti
Seva
America’s First Guru
Sikh Musical Heritage

Images courtesy of Provided and Honey Shah

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