Local Pair Attends Utah Parliament

Courtesy photo  Cheryl Kettell and Linda Benson let the Alameda Sun shine on the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City.

Local Pair Attends Utah Parliament

Courteous. Warm. Kind. Respectful. 

These are the words Cheryl Kettell and Linda Benson used to describe the people they met in October at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City. 

Benson singled out not the people who attended the parliament for special praise, but those who worked at the Holiday Inn Express. In order to better negotiate her way around the parliament Benson found it necessary to rent a power wheelchair. When the hotel employees delivered her chair, Benson had trouble getting the chair to make any turns unless she had her chariot at full throttle. 

When the hotel manager got wind of Benson’s dilemma, he stopped what he was doing, put all else aside and spent some 90 minutes getting the chair to work properly. “His compassion really touched me,” she said. 

Kettell is an American Indian who converted to Baha’i. She delights in the connection the parliament shares with her chosen faith. Kettell explained that the very first Parliament of the World’s Religions met in September 1893 at Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition, and that the first public mention of her faith was made at that very first parliament. 

On Sept. 23, 1893, Reverend Henry Jessup, a Presbyterian missionary living in Syria, delivered a paper to the Parliament. He shared his experiences in the Middle East. He quoted Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i faith, who said, “That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religions should cease and differences of race be annulled.”

Jessup said that these words gave utterance to sentiments both noble and Christ-like.

While in Salt Lake City, Kettell had the privilege of meeting the local Baha’i community. 

Kettell and Benson witnessed several milestones at the Parliament. These included the first live-streamed Parliament with some 28,000 views, the largest number of programs with 1,800 presenters and the largest number of exhibitors and films. 

Visitors saw some of Mahatma Gandhi original documents in the cultural hall.

Maurine Pyle of the Carbondale, Ill., Interfaith Council pointed out that the Parliament included the first women’s assembly. “Women and young people under 30 made up more than 65 percent of participants at the Parliament and the majority of all emcees were women,” Pyle said.  

“It was the best experience of my life,” Kettell said.