The 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions: Striving for Religious Unity

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The World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893 was organised in the context of the Columbian World Exhibition, which celebrated 400 years of America. It convened in the main hall of the Chicago Art Institute and attracted 150,000 people, according to one of the lengthy reports. Various aspects wil be addressed in this contribution: the objectives of the organisers, the character of the various reports of this mega-event, the participation of women (who were among the speakers), the relationship between the Christian organisers and the representatives of the East, the various – opposing – claims about the superiority of specific forms of religion and culture (for instance, the juxtaposition of the material West and the spiritual East), and the tendency to spiritualize religion. A special focus of this contribution will be the framing of this event as a parliament and the role of dialogue between representatives of various denominations and world religions.

It is hardly possible to draw one final conclusion from this heterogeneous event, but perhaps one can say that the participants who somehow felt united and had a strong sense of togetherness were convinced of the ultimate meaning of ‘religion’ – however defined – as a force against indulging in consumerism and materialism (which form in this view the core of irreligion). The ‘inclusivist’ rhetoric of many participants did not imply, of course, that nobody was excluded. Participants from non-Christian religions did not accept the dominating discourse, but argued that their religion was more spiritualized and tolerant than that of their hosts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDawn of Ecumenism
EditorsAlberto Melloni, Luca Ferraci
Place of PublicationLeiden – Boston
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-44669-4
Publication statusPublished - 25-Nov-2021

Publication series

NameA History of the Desire for Christian Unity: Ecumenism in the Churches (19th–21st Century)
ISSN (Print)2665-900X

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