Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

Indy Star on 2016 Indy Festival of Faiths

Festival of Faiths allows attendees to discover new religions

Kara Berg, IndyStar, September 18, 2016

As Tonya Reid walked around the Indy Festival of Faiths, she noticed religions she had never heard of before.

Reid, a youth group leader from New Palestine, attended the festival with high school students in her youth group. The goal was to introduce them to religions outside their own, since many had never known anything but the Lutheran faith.

“It’s good for them to see and experience life outside their little world,” Reid said.

The Center for Interfaith Cooperation hosted the fourth annual Festival of Faiths on Sunday to celebrate religious diversity in Indianapolis. The theme this year, in honor of the Indiana Bicentennial, was the history of religions in Indiana. Attendees were able to meet members of more than 100 congregations and community organizations, according to the Center for Interfaith Cooperation.

Reid’s 16-year-old son, Dane Reid, said he had never seen anything like the festival before, and had found the Buddhist faith interesting to learn about.

“It’s like my mind is one way and now it’s trying to reach out to different parts,” Dane said. “I’ve never learned anything but my own religion before, so it’s interesting to learn other perspectives.”

The festival provides an opportunity to meet religious neighbors and to get together and celebrate the diversity of faiths in Indianapolis, said Charlie Wiles, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Cooperation.

Wiles, a Catholic, said he has always been interested in learning about other religions, which is why he enjoys having the festival in Indianapolis.

“This is a very safe and comfortable environment to share religions,” Wiles said. “When I grew up in this town, there was an Italian restaurant and a Chinese restaurant, and that was it. Now, the diversity is amazing.”

Religions such as Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism, Catholicism, Islam, Jainism and Baha’i all had booths at the festival. People of all faiths were able to walk around to discover new information.

At the Sikh booth, Jitender Singh was encouraging attendees to try on a turban.

“We’re tying turbans,” Singh called. “Best Facebook likes ever.”

As he worked, Singh explained the steps of putting on the turban, and afterward he spoke about the importance of the headdress to him.

“(The turban) represents humility, spirituality and honesty,” he said. “It’s a religious and cultural thing. It doesn’t say anywhere we have to, but … the turban is to set us apart, and to show if you ever need help, a Sikh will help.

“Every Sikh is a soldier — a soldier of honesty, peace and truth.”

Wandering around near the Sikh booth, Shashi Karav, 57, and Rahul Karav, 37, collected fistfuls of fliers, eager to learn about as many religions as they could.

Both practice Jain, an ancient Indian religion. Shashi said she hasn’t been able to practice since she came to the U.S., but she was able to at the festival Sunday.

She and Rahul came to represent their faith, even though they weren’t taking part at a booth. Both were walking booth to booth to take in the new knowledge. They, too, had found some religions they hadn’t recognized.

“It’s awesome,” Rahul said.  “There’s so much to explore and be able to find so many ways to practice what you believe in.”