1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago

At the end of the parliament there was an air of hopefulness about its future impact. Marcus Braybrooke describes this in Pilgrimage of Hope:

‘Looking back after a century which has seen the bloodiest of wars and the resurgence of religious extremism and intolerance, it may seem that the dreams of the Chicago World’s Parliament of Religions were as short lived as the euphoria and the buildings of the exposition. Had the White City, asked Rabbi Emil Hirsch of Chicago been just ‘a dream, unreal, destined to vanish into thin air?’ ‘No’, was his answer. Hirsch compared the exposition to an oriental flower that, although withered, continued to exude a powerful aroma or to a star, that although dead, continued to send its ‘light and cheer and glory’ to distant planets. Certainly, although the Parliament left no continuing body, its ideals have continued to inspire those who seek understanding between religions and their co-operation for peace.’

‘Charles Bonney, as President of the World’s Congress, then spoke the closing words. He affirmed that the Parliament’s influence would affect all people and that although external creeds might not change, they would be pervaded by a new spirit of light and peace. He concluded, “Henceforth the religions of the world will make war, not on each other, but on the giant evils that affect mankind.”’

‘The psychological impact of the Parliament needs to be measured as well as the intellectual content of the papers. The key issue was the relation of religions to each other – usually formulated in terms of the relation of Christianity to other religions. The balance of the intellectual arguments do not entirely square with the emotional and psychological impact and although it is fair to describe the Parliament as a Christian assembly to which guests of other faiths were invited, it has come to symbolize something more.’