Le Moyne College’s O'Connell Professor in the Humanities, Dr. Mary MacDonald of the Religious Studies Department, participated in the Parliament of the World's Religions held late last year in Melbourne, Australia. MacDonald presented a paper titled "Orientations to the Land in Australia," considering the perspectives of Indigenous Australians and Settler Australians and asking whether the two groups can make common cause for the benefit of all who now call Australia home.
MacDonald journeyed to Australia to take part in a panel titled: "The Doctrine of Discovery and Indigenous Peoples." The panel explored the justifications given by colonial powers for forcibly acquiring the land of indigenous peoples and the collusion of the church in such acquisitions. The other participants were Dr. Philip Arnold (Religion, Syracuse University), Tonya Gonella-Frichner (Onondaga Nation, lawyer working with the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues), Faithkeeper Oren Lyons (Onondaga Nation), and Steve Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape, Indigenous Law Institute, columnist for Indian Country Today). In his presentation Lyons noted that we need to work as allies in educating our people about the history of the Doctrine of Discovery and its legacies.
The first World's Parliament of Religions was held in 1893 in Chicago as a global dialogue of religions. One hundred years later, a second parliament was held in Chicago to celebrate the centenary and this led to a new series of parliaments which now convene every five years. The idea of the parliaments is that people of various faiths come together to listen to each other and commit themselves to working together for the sake of the Earth and its inhabitants. The latest parliament, ushered in to the sounds of the didgeridoo mingled with the music of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra, focused on indigenous peoples and environmental issues. In the opening ceremony Professor Joy Murphy Wandin, the senior elder of the Wurrunjeri people of the Kulin nations welcomed the participants to “country.” Her welcome was followed by musical performances, blessings by the various religious groups participating in the parliament, and remarks by public officials. After a week filled with religious services, lectures, panels, and workshops, the parliament concluded with another ceremony, at which the Dalai Lama spoke. He highlighted the responsibility of those present and their communities for ensuring peace and justice in our common future.
For more information about the parliament, visit www.parliamentofreligions.org/