The World Parliament of Religions was a wonderful environment where people of all faiths and those who were interested in building unity of faith in the world gathered together to address the Global issues of our day. Economic inequality, sustainability, global warming and care of the indigenous cultures, peace and women’s equality and rights were a few of the major topics discussed at the meeting. All who came were interested in learning about each other’s beliefs, dress, and religion. It was a gathering of the faithful who joined to serve humanity together. This made it a very cozy and welcoming place, despite almost 10,000 people attending.
It was especially endearing to be there as a Sikh, as the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sevak Jatha (a group from the UK) had organized a lunchtime langar for everyone at the Parliament. In the spirit of learning and gathering together, thousands of people stood in line each day to enter the langar hall. Once they came in, each person was greeted by Sikhs, asked to remove their shoes and cover their heads. The values and practice of langar was shared along with displays to educate people about the Sikh faith as they waited in the langar lines. Participants saw a replica of the Golden Temple, replete with a faux sarovar in the center of the hall while they listened to live kirtan being played by the Chardi Kala Jatha and others. After receiving a really delicious langar followed by coffee and tea, people had a chance to talk with Sikhs to learn how Sikh values have manifested within each facet of the langar experience. Everywhere we went people expressed their appreciation and gratitude to us as Sikhs for the delicious food and for bringing the experience of universality, generosity and service to the Parliament. Needless to say, langar was a favorite experience for all who participated at the conference.
There was also a booth hosted by the American Sikh Council which handed out and tied free turbans on many participants, so as the conference went on, more and more people were wearing turbans. In fact, in the closing performance, in the choir, there was a bright orange turban on stage!
On the way to the airport, we shared a shuttle with the leader of the Jain faith who came from India to attend the conference. This was his first time at the Parliament and he said the most impressive experience he had there was the langar because of the humility of service with which Sikhs made and served the food with their own hands. This inspired him and he felt all faiths had something to learn from Sikhs.
The next World Parliament of Religions conference is in two years and the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sevak Jatha has already committed to serving langar there. We hope to see you there!