Tenrikyo Participates in Parliament of the World’s Religions

Representatives of Tenrikyo took part in the 4th Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in Barcelona, Spain, from July 7 to 13. Professor Emeritus Hiroshi Uetani of Tenri University, Dr. Ikuo Higashibaba of Tenri Seminary, and President Koichi Iwakiri of Tenri Japan-France Cultural Association were among some 8,000 people from 75 countries attending the interreligious gathering. Professor Uetani delivered a lecture on the 9th, discussing Tenrikyo’s perspective on world peace. In addition, the Gagaku Music Society of Tenri University gave a performance on the 10th as part of the one-week event.

The history of the Parliament of the World’s Religions goes back to 1893, when religious leaders, scholars, and theologians from both the East and West assembled in Chicago for a historic gathering, widely regarded as having heralded the modern interfaith movement. The 2nd Parliament, convened in Chicago in 1993 to mark the centennial of the original gathering, celebrated diversity and harmony and explored spiritual and religious responses to the important issues confronting the international community. The 3rd Parliament took place in 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa, to foster dialogue and cooperation and provide the opportunity to witness the role that religion and spirituality played in creating a new South Africa.

The latest Parliament was organized as part of the “Universal Forum of Cultures–Barcelona 2004,”which is a five-month public forum being held between May and September to address cultural diversity, sustainable development, and conditions for peace. The 4th Parliament–whose theme was “Pathways to Peace: the Wisdom of Listening, the Power of Commitment”–offered a large variety of over 400 events and attractions including lectures, workshops, debates, and artistic performances.

Professor Uetani delivered a one-hour lecture in Spanish under the title “Towards the Construction of World Peace: Tenrikyo’s Proposal.”He began by noting some of the critical issues facing the global community and said that now, more than ever, religion’s raison d’etre itself was being brought into question the world over. “Religion is now being called upon to provide clear, practical, and realistic guidance on how to solve global issues,”he said. He went on to tell his listeners that followers of Tenri-kyo are proactively participating in interfaith meetings in order to contribute to bringing humankind closer to the realization of the Joyous Life World–the purpose for which God the Parent created human beings. They are basing themselves, he said, on their conviction that the Joyous Life is universal and fundamental and is longed for by all people of the world. He then explained Tenrikyo’s view of humanity and the world as well as Oyasama’s Divine Model. He concluded by inviting all people to respect one another and work together to create a world of joy in which everyone can truly savor the gift of life and live in joyousness day after day.

His well-attended presentation was followed by a 30-minute question and answer session, which mainly dealt with Tenrikyo’s missionary activities and view of the role of women.

Prior to the Parliament event itself–or more precisely, from the 5th to 7th–some 400 invited leaders, activists, experts in critical issues, as well as people affected by those issues assembled at the Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat to address four main areas: increasing access to clean water, eliminating international debt for developing countries, supporting refugees worldwide, and overcoming religiously motivated violence. Dr. Higashibaba and Mr. Iwakiri represented Tenrikyo at the Montserrat Assembly.

Tenri University’s Gagaku Music Society appeared as part of the Parliament’s Sacred Music Concert held on the evening of the 10th at the famous Sagrada Familia–the temple on which architect Antonio Gaudi began work more than 120 years ago and which is still unfinished. Based on the understanding that music is a common language that can unite the world in peace, the event featured 10 groups, whose performances were inspired by various religious and spiritual traditions. The students from Tenri performed a work entitled Taiheiraku, which is a celebration of peace, and were well received by the audience numbering about 10,000. In fact, since the concert was televised, it reached a much larger audience.

The request for the Tenri students’ gagaku performance came through Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo, a Yoboku who has been working on the Sagrada Familia since 1978 and has been involved with the “Universal Forum of Cultures.”

In addition to their appearance as a Parliament attraction, the students gave a performance in the city of Santiago de Compostela on the 6th under the sponsorship of the university of the same name, which is a sister school to Tenri University. The gagaku musicians also appeared in the context of the “Universal Forum of Cultures,”performing Etenraku and Bato on the 8th at the Greek Theatre in Barcelona.

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