The Center for Interfaith Relations is delighted to celebrate
25 Years of
Festival of Faiths
In 2020, The Center for Interfaith Relations is celebrating its 25th annual Festival of Faiths. Join the celebration by learning more from our 25 year Festival retrospective.
In 2016, our 21st Festival of Faiths focused on Sacred Wisdom: Pathways to Nonviolence. Festival activities included Enso calligraphy with Zen Master Dae Gak of the Furnace Mountain Retreat Center and a sand mandala created by the monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery, and concluded with a compassion walk. The walk, from our venue at Actor’s Theatre to the Ohio River, was made silently through the streets of downtown and culminated with pouring the sand from the mandala into the Ohio River.
Festival sessions covered a wide range of topics including Islamophobia, Black Lives Matter, gun violence, and the media and the public trust.
As we examined various pathways to compassion and peace, the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association took place concurrently and across the street from the Festival.
Our 2015 Festival of Faiths, Sacred Journeys, went back to our roots with a deep look at the life and legacy of Thomas Merton.
The Center for Interfaith Relations sits at the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets in Louisville, the exact spot where on March 18, 1958, Merton had the epiphany that we are “all walking around shining like the sun.” Thomas Merton’s dialogue between other faiths, especially his conversations with the Dalai Lama and interest in Tibetan Buddhism, have served as the model for inter-religious conversations for the Center.
The 20th annual festival began with a divine reading by a student of Merton’s, Brother Paul Quenon of the Abbey of Gethsemani. Theology professor Dr. Chris Pramuk spoke on topics of race and religion in the writings of Merton, and Buddhist teacher Roshi Jones Halifax discussed living Merton’s legacy in a compassionate city.
The 2014 Festival of Faiths, “Sacred Earth, Sacred Self,” sought healing of self and society through a faith–based look at the earth. An interfaith prayer service opened the festival with a call to re-awaken to a world of beauty and abundance.
This 19th annual festival included a morning meditation led by Gerardo Abboud, founder of the Dongyuling Center in Argentina and translator for the Dalai Lama in Latin America. Wendell Berry showed us how to view the earth as a neighbor, and concepts of resilience were applied to our daily lives by social entrepreneurs Nina Simons and Kenny Ausubel. Islamic scholar Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, founder of Zaytuna College, led us in a talk entitled “Healing Self, Healing Society.”
The 2013 Festival of Faiths, Sacred Silence: Pathway to Compassion, redirected attention from the self to the other, creating a pathway to compassion. Programming was carefully curated to reflect the 2013 Festival’s dedication to highlighting the historic 1968 meeting of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Thomas Merton.
We were privileged to collaborate with the Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion, the city of Louisville and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University in preparing a program of events leading up to the arrival of the Dalai Lama.
The Festival of Faiths and the Institute for Contemplative Practice also hosted an opening of an exhibit featuring the work of photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard. The exhibit, “Merton/Meatyard; Meatyard/Merton,” included many of Meatyard’s iconic photos of Merton, along with eight original Thomas Merton calligraphies.
The 17th annual Festival of Faiths, Sacred Fire: Light of Compassion, continued our investigation into roles of the primal elements in our spiritual lives.
In 1995, elders from the Ojibwa tribe lit a sacred fire for international peace. Coals from this fire have been shared around the world, and in 2012, Native American spiritual leader Rupert Encinas and firekeepers of indigenous American traditions kept the light burning throughout the festival.
The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer set the standard for what defines a “compassionate city,” directing festival attendees and the city at large on how to follow the International Charter for Compassion. Our evening program featured a Whirling Ceremony of the Mevlevi Dervishes, combining meditative movement and classical Sufi music.