Speakers at the Parliament’s opening sessions spoke openly about the ways religion can be viewed with suspicion or used to harm others. That makes the Parliament’s work all the more important, said the Rev. Paul Raushenbush, president of the Interfaith Alliance.

Raushenbush, who will give a plenary address on Tuesday, told RNS the Parliament’s focus on both religious freedom and human rights is essential, especially at a time when authoritarian forms of organized religion are on the rise.

“The reason the interfaith movement was born was because people decided they were not going to kill each other because they believe different things,” he said. “And we still have people killing each other for believing different things.”

In his address later this week, Raushenbush said, he plans to challenge attendees to put their beliefs and their cooperation into action to counter authoritarian political and religious groups. 

“We are really focusing on the rise of authoritarianism and the rise of the threat of a certain elevation of one religious tradition over others,” he said. “And this is happening around the world working in concert with political and other kinds of power.”

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