International spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy offered a silent meditation and performed his peace-filled music on esraj to open the week-long Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona before thousands of participants from all faiths on Wednesday evening. Many other preeminent world figures — including the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ms. Shirin Ebadi, the Archbishop of Barcelona and the Governor of Catalonia — spoke during the ceremony which officially begins more than 400 plenaries, seminars and special events.

At a time when inter-religious conflict is causing untold world suffering, the Parliament offers a means for people of all spiritual and cultural traditions to join together in helping better the world through joint prayers, as well as common social and ecological initiatives.

During the first Parliament, held in 1893 in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda captured the hearts and imaginations of all the participants with his powerful, all-embracing spirituality. This was the beginning of the interfaith movement worldwide. One hundred years later, Sri Chinmoy, who has led the Peace Meditations at the United Nations since 1970, also offered the opening meditation at the world’s second Parliament.

The current Parliament of World Religions is only the fourth in history and is one of the largest events taking place during the five-month Universal Forum of Cultures in Barcelona.

Published in The Indian Express,page 57, Friday, July 9, 2004