The world's largest interfaith gathering convened its fifth day of activity on Monday, hosting nearly 8,000 attendants for dialogue on issues such as climate change, indigenous rights, and the relationship between Islam and the West.
Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Baha'is, Buddhists, Sihks, Christians and many other religious believers gathered in Melbourne beginning last Thursday for a week's worth of keynote addresses, presentations, performances and debates featuring prominent faith leaders from around the world
Notable speakers this year include Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Rabbi David Saperstein, theologian Dr. Hans Kung and the Dalai Lama, who will give the conference's closing address on Wednesday.
Muslim speakers garnered special attention at this year's event in efforts to resolve misunderstandings among Westerners about the Islamic religion, according to conference director Dirk Ficca, a Presbyterian minister from the U.S.
"There are going to be 40 programmes on Islam and the West," Ficca shared. "Talk about a tradition that is misunderstood, talk about a tradition that is maligned, talk about a tradition where one per cent of the tradition has given the entire community a bad name - it is Islam."
"And so we want to give reputable Islamic scholars and leaders the chance first of all to share what they believe Islam is all about," he continued.
Convening every five years since 1993, the Parliament of the World's Religions exists to foster interreligious, civil and cross-cultural dialogue on important local, national, and global issues. The gathering seeks to represent at least 10,000 participants from 80 countries during its assembly.