One of the world's largest inter-faith festivals has opened in Australia. Up to 8,000 people are expected at the Parliament of the World's Religions - among them is the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
At the Parliament of the World's Religions, which opens Thursday in Melbourne, delegates will discuss issues such as climate change, indigenous rights and the West's relationship with Islam.
Native American leaders, rabbis from Israel and Buddhist monks from Vietnam will join Muslim scholars, Hindu philosophers and representatives of the various Christian denominations at the event.
The six-day parliament convenes every five years. It has a simple, symbolic premise - to cultivate harmony and bring together different people to share their beliefs and ideas.
The director of the conference, Dirk Ficca, a Presbyterian minister from the United States, says it is particularly important that the voices of moderate Muslims are heard.
"There are going to be 40 programs on Islam and the West," he said. "Talk about a tradition that is misunderstood, talk about a tradition that is maligned, talk about a tradition where one percent of the tradition has given the entire community a bad name, it is Islam. And so we want to give reputable Islamic scholars and leaders the chance first of all to share what they believe Islam is all about."
Thousands of delegates from 80 countries are expected to attend the conference.
The Parliament of the World's Religions will not end with a grand concluding statement but will simply wish for adherents of different faiths to be more accepting of each other.
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, will deliver the closing address.
Speaking in Sydney ahead of the conference this week, the 74-year-old Dalai Lama urged world leaders to make the issue of global warming their "number one" priority.
Australia Welcomes Parliament of World's Religions