Over the last month and a half I have been trying to synthesize my thoughts on my experience at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions Gathering this past October. I have come to this simple conclusion. How do you describe the indescribable? According to the Parliament’s website, there were “30 major religions, approx. 550 sub religions represented and women and young people under 30 made up more than 65 percent of participants at the 2015 Parliament!” All 10,000 participants came for 1 purpose – to join together in order to Reclaim the Heart of Humanity.
Before attending the Parliament I was so jazzed to be in the same room as some of the world’s great faith leaders that I had read about and studied in school (such as Marianne Williamson, Valarie Kaur, Jane Goodall, Eboo Patel), I didn’t even think about how much diversity there would be at the Parliament, and how enriching that would be.
At the Parliament there was a wide variety of plenary sessions, but one that stuck with me in particular was a session on women’s roles in religious institutions.
Some speakers spoke about the love we as women have to offer, while others spoke about the oppression of women in many faith traditions; even those tradition which affirm the ordination or rise of women in leadership. Marianne Williamson had an interesting take on women’s leadership:
“When religion is not honest and real, it is co-opted by the very forces we are here to protect human beings from; this the answer to the rise in female voices today in religion. Women are forming a new vortex of priestesshood and practicing our true priestesshood elsewhere when we are not welcome. Every woman who is a teacher, healer, is a priestess. Every woman who feels that she was sent by divine mission; the same small voice from God that not only leads the great leaders of the world. Passionate free-thinking women raise passionate free-thinking children, and grow into passionate-free thinking adults. Passionate free-thinking adults are impossible to control in the face of prejudice and oppression for humanity.”
While I do not feel oppressed very often because I come from a place of privilege (I am a white anglo-saxon with a Protestant upbringing), after hearing these auspicious words I do feel that I have a stronger sense of belonging to the worldwide community of women. I am a healer, a healer of humanity, and I am such simply by listening. I am an educator by sticking to my values in the face of adversity. I am able to show that ignorance, hatred, and violence are not the way. I am a collaborative leader that brings people from all walks of life together with compassion as best I can. I am a priestess.
To witness participants who have very different backgrounds and often times have fundamental differences affirm the message that Ms. Williamson delivered was one of the most moving and divine experiences I have been apart of before. Men, women, children, elderly, and young all standing together believing that each and every woman should have the equity to rise in the world in both moral courage and leadership power is something to see. . When we listen, we learn, and we have an opportunity to live stronger and fuller lives: lives that are humane, not apathetic to the pain and oppression of others.