Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

A short history of the CIC

2006-2011 — The International Interfaith Initiative

Klaus Martin Finzel

The Center for Interfaith Cooperation has always been based on many existing interfaith initiatives in Central Indiana. A German philanthropist, Klaus Martin Finzel, gathered together many leaders of these organizations to inspire them with a vision of an international interfaith center for peace and education in Indianapolis. Two Charlies — Charlie Wiles and Charlie McDonald — accepted Klaus’s challenge.

2007 Youth Dialogue participants

The result was the International Interfaith Initiative (III), which from 2006-2011 was a program of the Peace Learning Center, where Charlie Wiles worked. III began many projects that have continued with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation. For instance, one of the first major projects for III was a series of interfaith youth dialogues of middle school students visiting one another’s places of worship. The inspiration for these dialogues continues today with the InterfaithYouth Ambassador Program.

Statement of purposes of the Internation Interfaith Initiative

The International Interfaith Initiative is a not-for-profit organization designed to foster interfaith cooperation and strengthen civil society. To this end, we engage in community service projects, organize events, conduct original research, convene conferences, educate and inform policymakers, and encourage inter-religious dialogue. We are based in Indianapolis.

When it was formally incorporated in 2011, the Center for Interfaith Cooperation could be built on a large, robust and diverse network of partnerships with Central Indiana congregations, colleges and universities, and civic and community organizations. From these partnerships came one of CIC’s most important assets: an extraordinarily diverse and active board, consisting of thirty-plus religious and community leaders.

The first Procession Faiths from the 2013 Indy Festival of Faiths

Nearly from its formation, CIC has organized two signature events every year. The Indy Festival of Faiths is one of the Midwest’s largest one-day celebrations of religious diversity and vitality. The next Indy Festival of Faiths is scheduled for September 13, 2020

CIC’s second annual signature event is our Annual Interfaith Banquet. The purpose of the Festival of Faiths is to connect a wide array of Central Indiana residents to the region’s congregations and community organizations. The Interfaith Banquet, by contrast, connects the city’s religious, educational, and civic leaders to each other. The next 

CIC helps organize interfaith educational and community programs virtually every week. These are all in partnership with other organizations. Examples include:

A Speaker’s Bureau featuring more than two dozen leading experts on different faiths and religions.
An Interfaith Lecture Series in partnership with several universities, which brings nationally renowned scholars to Indianapolis.
The Sacred Spaces Tour of places of worship, which in the spring and summer has exposed hundreds of Hoosiers to congregations of different faiths.
An Interfaith Film Series, in partnership with Heartland and other community groups.
Dinners and other events connecting newly arrived refugees with congregations wishing to learn from and assist them.  

The Immigrant & Refugee Service Corps (IRSC) is an AmeriCorps program hosted by CIC. IRSC mobilizes community support to increase services to newcomers and others in Central Indiana. Members specifically focus on developing and disseminating information that provides immigrant and refugee families with better access to healthcare and wellness services. Members have taken the lead in formulating the Ethnic Self-Help Charter, which identified mental health as an urgent need for newcomers.

The IRSC program began in 2012 with 10 members hosted in eight different community organizations. The second year of the program grew to 12 members, and IRSC’s success of extending health services to newcomers in Central Indiana led two the addition of two host organizations, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Cancer Support Community. In fall of 2015, the number of host sites increased to 16 (CIC’s is the only AmeriCorps program in Indiana that is currently expanding). An indication of the IRSC’s success: Ben Leslie began as an IRSC member; today he is the IRSC program director.


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