Tuesday, September 9, 2014 1:00 AM
By Whitney Evans, Deseret News -- SALT LAKE CITY — For the second time in a little more than a decade, Salt Lake City will become a host to people of many nationalities and religions throughout the world.
Instead of welcoming the Olympic community, the city will host the Parliament of the World's Religions in October 2015. The announcement was made by Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, Tuesday at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.
This is the first time the summit will be held in the United States in 22 years.
"Having the honor to again host thousands of people from dozens of countries representing scores of religions offers us, Salt Lake and the state of Utah a fantastic opportunity to display our truly welcoming community," Beck said.
It is expected to attract 10,000 or more people from 80 countries and 50 faiths or spiritual traditions. More than 3,000 people submitted proposals to speak at the event and about 300 of those will be chosen. There will also be panels, films, music and other performances.
The mission of the Parliament of the World's Religions is to bring together religions and promote peace and unity. This is something that Arun Gandhi, fifth grandson of Mohandas Gandhi and Parliament trustee, said he learned from his grandfather.
"A lot of people seem to think that when we talk about interfaith and secularism, it means that we give up our own and adopt something new. It doesn't mean that at all. What it means is that we learn to respect all the religions as much as we respect our own religion," Gandhi said to those gathered.
Leaders of various faiths, including Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic church, and Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have been invited to the summit. None of them had responded as of Tuesday.
"You have a global outlook. We'll bring (the) globe to your home," said Imam Malik Mujahid, chairman of the Parliament board of trustees.
The parliament dates back to the first summit at the 1893 World's Fair and was the beginning of the interfaith movement. It is a place for the religious and nonreligious to come together and work toward greater understanding of others, according to Sande Hart, coordinator for the United Religions Initiative in North America and a Global Council member of the United Religions Initiative.
"The Parliament of the World's Religions is a safe space. And when we're in a safe space, what wants to emerge is a sense of wonderment where curiosity replaces fear and judgment. And because we're in that safe space, that place of wonder, we're more likely to understand the other. And when we understand the other we're more likely to trust them and isn't that what our world needs right now?" Hart asked.
The parliament is usually held every five years, but will now be held every two years, beginning in 2017. Those who are interested in attending can visit the Parliament of Religions Facebook page for more information or register at parliamentofreligions.org.