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Mice Net : February 2010
12 mice.net and produced a program for a seven day conference, the likes of which had never been achieved before." One of the greatest challenges facing the organisers of the Parliament was in handling the sensitivities and specific requirements of a range of religious and indigenous communities. The theme, which was depicted in strong Aboriginal visual representation, was a bold statement in encouraging and celebrating indigenous reconciliation across the globe. From the outset, indigenous groups were consulted as to appropriate inclusions in the program and in a fully inclusive spirit, the interests of disparate indigenous groups across the planet became a unifying hallmark of the program's content. Just as important was that Melbourne and Australia were determined to send a clear message to all ethnic and religious groups -- you're welcome here. Muslims, Christians, Jains, Zoroastrians, Atheists, Baha'is, Brahma Kamahis, Buddhists, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Pagans and other religious and spiritual groups all have specific needs according to their customs and traditions, but in a contemporary secular society, many are disregarded. Many religious groups, as part of their religious symbolism, carry specific items just as a Christian may wear a crucifix around his neck. Although symbolic, security screens may detect the metal component of some objects which may be foreign to Western culture as a possible threat to standard security procedures. Broad awareness of the need for symbolism and accommodating the symbols of religion ensured all attendees at the Parliament were made to feel welcome. Contingencies were a huge consideration for the organisers. While it is idealistic to assume that a collection of the world's most spiritual people could exist in a state of harmony, tolerance and acceptance, the reality of racial and religious differences bites. While religion can bring out the best in humankind it can also give rise to zealots and frankly, downright nutters. Contingencies were put in place to counter just about every possible encounter and circumstance. The possibility of asylum seekers, protesters, and minor conflicts were all considered and responses planned out before, during and following the staging of the Parliament. With invitations extended to all parts of the world, many delegates arrived from developing countries sponsored by their communities or religious groups. The expense of accommodation would have precluded many from attending so a homestay program was put in place whereby hundreds of willing Melbournians opened their homes to total strangers for the duration of the program. With such a limited staff, the organising committee relied heavily on a structured volunteer program in which willing volunteers donated countless hours before and during the Parliament. An army of more than 650 volunteers worked on several projects prior to the actual event and during the seven days acted as ushers, information posts, and registration helpers, ensuring the thousands of program sessions and logistics operations ran smoothly. "We couldn't have achieved what we did without our fantastic volunteers," said Parliament staffer, Fran Woodruff - coordinator of the homestay and volunteer programs. "They were such a valuable asset." After the closing ceremony which featured His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, Janetta Stones took several deep breaths and reflected on the event and the four years of hard work. "You know, we've just put together a world-class event here in Melbourne. We had an academic and intellectual program of more than 500 sessions where some of the world's greatest minds collaborated and addressed serious world issues. "There were 6500 delegates including 1500 performers and presenters, 650 volunteers, national and international coverage and a legacy that will live long into this century. We had bishops, rabbis, swamis, monks, royalty and thousands of faithful all in one place for one purpose. It's an incredible feat really. "At the end of the final day I'm sure the entire team said "Thank God, Allah, Buddha, Brahma, and Krishna that it all went off without a hitch!" And with that, Stones and her team consulted another god -- Bacchus. news