Japanese Language Verison Here / 日本語記事
Reimagining Interfaith - the Basics
I was in Washington, D.C. from July 29 to 31 to take part in the conference of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF). I was able to take part in this international interfaith conference as a delegate from the Rissho Kosei-kai Buddhist Community, of which I am a member.
The conference was held at the George Washington University Marvin Center and my estimate is that about 400 people attended. There was a large delegation from Japan -about 1/3 to half of all attendees. Others came from the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, France, India, Pakistan and from the West to East Coasts of the United States.
The Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Shinto and other Japanese denominations, Pagan, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist / Free Religious Congregation religions were represented (I may have missed a group). Secular Humanists also had a small delegation present.
Theme and Programs
The theme of the conference was "Reimagining Interfaith." Interfaith work has been about building bridges and fostering cooperation among religious / spiritual communities to work together for common goals. In that light, the theme was chosen to look at the bridges that the interfaith community has not been so good at building.
Further, the conference also addressed current topics such as immigration, racism, Islamophobia, climate change, discrimination in general and other timely topics. Several panels were held to touch on these issues.
For example, one panelist has been very involved in immigration issues and spoke about how the interfaith community has been rallying to protect immigrants -both legal and illegal. The recent actions of the Trump administration were discussed. Someone also pointed out that, although Trump's immigration policies are troubling, the USA has a long history of treating undocumented immigrants poorly.
Conversation was also held on Human Rights issues around the world and right here in the United States too.
We also broke off into smaller groups for more discussion. My group included Buddhists, a UUA member, a Pagan and members of the Free Religious Congregation from Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
On the morning of July 30 the Japanese delegation led a prayer service. Priests from the Shinto, Buddhist, Konkokyo and Ittoen Japanese faiths gave traditional prayers and rituals.
This was my first time attending a program of the IARF. As an international relations undergrad student and as someone who has long been interested in world religion, this was a great experience. I was particularly glad that I was able to meet and discuss with Japanese Shinto and Buddhist priests as I have a deep interest in Japanese spirituality.
Having lived in Japan and been to many temples and shrines, I am very grateful for this opportunity. Also, the fact that such a large number of Japanese people were present put my Japanese language abilities to the test! So, overall it was a wonderful experience.
I thought that much of the discussion was good and timely. It is important for various religious communities to work together on shared areas of concern.
Robert C. Piemme is an undergraduate student (international relations) and avid gardener, hiker and writer.