So I just registered to a 5 day long academic conference in my field (North America). I looked at the agenda; and there is a 15 min Opening Prayer in the schedule during the first day, and a Closing one at the end the last day. Conference size is somewhat small enough that most participants will know ~50% of the attendees.
I went to tons of conferences on 3 continents (America, Europe, Asia) and never went through this before.
I am not sure what this means in the context of an academic conference, what is the relevance, what is expected from participants. Never heard that this was happening before. Any idea as how it is now a 'thing' ?
EDIT: Aftermath: So while in the schedule it was labeled as a prayer, it was instead a short presentation by invited Indigenous Elders simply welcoming us to their lands and wishing us a great conference; felt quite sincere and personal. Note: the broad topic of the conference was indigenous related.