MELBOURNE will host the next world parliament of religions, "the Olympic Games of religion and spirituality", expected to draw 10,000 overseas visitors to the city in December 2009.
The city’s harmony between religions and commitment to inter-faith understanding helped it to beat Singapore and New Delhi, according to a spokesman for the Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Mike Williams, the bureau’s general manager, sales, said the taskforce went to as many grassroots religious centers as possible during their week-long visit in September.
The bureau says the eight-day parliament, the world’s biggest multi-faith gathering, will bring visitors from 74 countries — including leaders of the world’s main religions and many less-known ones — and will be worth more than $75 million to the state.
The successful bid is subject to completion of the financial plan.
The Federal and State governments are each contributing $2 million.
RMIT Professor Des Cahill, head of the Melbourne bid committee, said: "It is a credit to our multicultural and inter-faith climate that the world’s religious leaders and their faith communities have chosen Melbourne for such an important event.
"It is like winning the Olympic Games of religion and spirituality."
A idea of a real Olympic Games of religion and spirituality does have some promise. You could have the Communion dash. This is where contestants receive Communion and then dash out to their car to get out and avoid the traffic in the parking lot. The of course there would be the mountain climb since so many claim there are many paths to the top of the mountain and all of them equal. Wrestling could be another sport considering the number of people wrestling with their conscience. But this at least would be a venerable sport going back to Jacob.
You could also have a teaching relay race. Churches pass on doctrine from generation to generation and the one to not drop doctrines wins. Though they might complain that it is only the Catholic Church that ever wins this one and that Orthodox churches usually come in second.
After the surprising popularity of the first annual Ecumeniad (with a beautiful ceremony where an athlete runs across a lake to light a torch), Fox will no doubt start some martyrology-inspired reality/game show.
Who can stay in the lion’s den, or the furnace, the longest? Who can eat the most wild locusts?
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