Parliament Of The World's Religions To Host 2015 Conference In Salt Lake City

The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions has news it hopes will excite interfaith advocates and religious activists around the world.

The Parliament will host its 2015 conference in Salt Lake City, the first time the Parliament has met in the United States for 22 years.

"America is the home base of the interfaith movement and it's about time the Parliament come back home," Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid said in an announcement.

On Tuesday Mujahid was joined by Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson, Dr. Arun Gandhi, Andrew Himes of the Charter for Compassion International and Sande Hart of United Religions Initiative for a press conference at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center -- where the conference will be held on October 15 - 19, 2015.

"Salt Lake City and its people are very hospitable," Mujahid told HuffPost. "There is a big interfaith network there, which came into being when the Winter Olympics were being held -- and they've sustained themselves since."

The conference will engage participants and speakers on several themes, Mujahid said, including climate change, the wealth gap and global violence.

"We selected these issues because 10 to 15 thousand people show up to the Parliament, and they are not just lay people," Mujahid said. "They’re activists. These people have by and large influenced what gets said from the pulpit, and people speaking from the pulpit are in a good position to influence the longterm solutions."

Mujahid said he could not yet comment on next year's speakers but referred to previous Parliament guests who have included the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Queen Noor of Jordan, Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Karen Armstrong, Swami Vivekananda, Rabbi David Saperstein, Dr. Hans Kung, Deepak Chopra, and Amma the Hugging Saint.

With a focus on the environment, Mujahid suggested that conference-goers can expect climate experts and scientists to be in attendance.

In addition to international guests, the conference will likely engage with the local faith community in Salt Lake city, which is perhaps best known as the "New Zion" of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

"We feel that there is extraordinary openness and desire on the part of the LDS church to be a part of the multi-religious movement," Mujahid said. "We have been very thankful for their openness and hospitality."

The Parliament is also making a major push to encourage students and young adults to attend -- as evidenced by a major discount for young participants that Mujahid said could be as big as 70-80% off depending on time of registration. (For non-students, the first 2,000 registrants can enjoy a 60% discounted rate, Parliament Senior Communications Associate, Molly Horan, said.)

The increase in youth-led activism, religious and otherwise, is something both Horan and Mujahid said will influence the Parliament's direction here on out.

"With the birth of the Interfaith Youth Core and all the grassroots and local groups that have spread out in the last 10 years, we’re looking at a tremendously different Parliament," Horan said.

In a statement on the Parliament's website, Mujahid attributed the decision to host the Parliament meetings every two years instead of every five to "shorter attention spans" in a social media-driven world.

The planned 2015 conference will mark the Parliament's fifth in recent decades, the previous ones having taken place in Chicago, Cape Town, Barcelona and Melbourne. The first and founding Parliament conference took place in 1893 in Chicago.

Even with the announcement of the 2015 event still fresh, plans for a 2017 conference are already in the works, with 20 international cities vying to host it. For now, though, the Parliament will focus its efforts on making the 2015 conference a success.

"We are looking forward to probably the best Parliament ever," Mujahid said.

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