Imtiaz Ahmed Sra,
Missionary, Vaughan, Canada
The parliament of the world religions is an organisation which was created to “cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities”.
The first Parliament of the World’s Religions (PWR) took place in the city of Chicago in 1893 and was attended by almost 7,000 people. Scholars from different religions presented the teachings of their respective faith. Muhammad Alexander Russell Webb represented Islam in the First PWR. He was an Anglo-American who had accepted Islam by reading the works of the Promised Messiahas and through detailed correspondence with him.
The Promised Messiahas had conveyed the message of Islam to many in Europe and America. His message was printed in the Theosophist, a publication of the Theosophical Society, in September of 1886. Being a member of the society, the message also reached Alexander Russell Webb, a journalist with Missouri Republican Party. Mr Webb had been searching for the truth in religion and began correspondence with the Promised Messiahas. He accepted Islam and wrote to the Promised Messiahas in 1887, “It occurred to me that I might, through your aid, assist in spreading the truth here.” (Shahna-e-Haqq, Ruhani Khazain , Vol. 2, pp. 439-443)
After accepting Islam, Muhammad Alexander Russell Webb started preaching the message of Islam in the United States and later in India. In the series of lectures he delivered, one of them, Influence of Islam on Social Conditions, was delivered at the first PWR Conference in 1893.
Alexander Russell Webb
After a break of one hundred years, the PWR resumed in 1993 and was held at its birthplace, Chicago.
Seven PWRs have been held since its inception:
1. 11-16 September 1893 in Chicago, USA with a total attendance of 7,000
2. 28 August-5 September 1993 in Chicago, USA with a total attendance of 8,000
3. 1-8 December 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa with a total attendance of 7,000
4. 7-13 July 2004 in Barcelona, Spain with a total attendance of 9,000
5. 3-9 December 2009 in Melbourne, Australia with an attendance of 6,500
6. 15-19 October 2015 in Salt Lake City, USA with an attendance of 10,359
7. 1-7 November 2018 in Toronto, Canada with a total attendance of 8,000
This year, by the grace of Allah, the 7th conference of Parliament of the World’s Religions was held in Toronto (see www.parliamentofreligions.org). The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Canada was an early supporter of hosting this event in Toronto.
The steering committee of PWR extended a warm invitation to the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa to speak at the conference as the keynote speaker, stating: “As the leader of a tradition that was faithfully present at the first-ever Parliament in 1893 – and the leader of a faith committed to inclusion and cooperation, ‘Love for All and Hatred for None’ – we believe that you are the perfect person to help us celebrate our history and our future.”
Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa sent his regrets for not being able to attend and wished success to the conference.
After receiving this response, the PWR invited the Jamaat in Canada to speak at a separate session of conference. Lal Khan Malik Sahib, Amir Jamaat Canada instructed me as missionary Vaughan Jamaat to speak at this session on the topic of Pathway to Peace, an international campaign being held by the Jamaat.
In this speech, nine fundamentals of peace were presented as explained by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa. The session was attended by guests who came from different parts of the world, some from as far as Japan. Hazrat Amirul Momineen’saa book World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace was also introduced during the session. The attendees expressed an appreciation for the Jamaat’s endeavours in trying to achieve world peace.
Since its inception in 1893, this is the first time that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat has participated in a conference organised by PWR. Allah the Exalted granted an opportunity to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Canada to be part of this conference and share the peaceful message of Islam Ahmadiyyat. Alhamdolillah.
A month after the conclusion of the PWR Toronto, Hon Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell hosted a reception in honour of the Steering Committee of PWR. I had the opportunity to attend this reception and, by the grace of Allah, introduced the Hon Lieutenant Governor of Ontario to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat and its peaceful endeavours of the Jamaat.