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11 September 2008

On this day in history: First World`s Parliament of Religions, 1893

In 1893 Chicago hosted a World's Fair called the World's Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas. With so many people visiting the city during that year, organisers for many other parliaments and congresses chose to stage their events in Chicago. One of these was the first Parliament of the World’s Religions, which ran for sixteen days beginning on the 11th September.

This was the first formal conference attended by representatives of Eastern and Western religions. While delegates from several new religions were in attendance, including Spiritualism and Christian Science, there were a few notable absentees, such as Sikhs and indigenous or nature-worshipping faiths. Nevertheless, the conference marked the beginning of inter-faith dialogue and the start of Western interest in Eastern spirituality as more than exotic curiosities.

The Tuepflis Global Village Library includes details of the programme of events for the 1893 Parliament in English, with notes in German.