Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

Peggy Thompson-Rutledge on the 2013 Festival of Faiths

Peggy Thompson-Rutledge attended the first Festival of Faiths with her grandson … read what she thought of the event.

The weather was a perfect fall day on Sunday, October 13, 2013, as Indianapolis residents had the opportunity to attend and participate in the Inaugural Festival of Faiths.  The Centre for Interfaith Cooperative (CIC) organized this festival with the goal of teaching religious heritage and sharing the many faith traditions that make-up the religious diversity in our community.  CIC is a non-profit organization which was founded in 2011 to provide a platform and support for Central Indiana’s religious organizations and faith-based initiatives.  The mission of the CIC is “to strengthen community in central Indiana and beyond by: Supporting existing connections between and among faith communities; Fostering additional interfaith opportunities through social, cultural, and educational interactions; and Connecting interfaith communities through volunteer service and civic engagement”.  The vision of CIC is “a community that pursues peace through interfaith understanding and cooperation”.  By hosting and bringing together Central Indiana’s many religious communities for this festival, the CIC provided an opportunity to not only introduce the numerous religions to the residents, but also to educate them on the various traditions of the many faiths in attendance.

The Festival of Faiths took place downtown on Veterans Memorial Plaza and in the Indiana World War Memorial on the corner of Meridian and Michigan Streets.  A large stage had been set on the east side of the War Memorial with tables and booths lining the grounds.  These were manned by various religious organizations, not-for-profits, churches, parishes and synagogues.  There were 51 exhibitors providing information, pamphlets and videos about the different religious traditions being practiced in Indiana.  Some of Indianapolis’ favorite food trucks were parked in front of the World War Memorial serving such treats as; Cajun turkey, catfish, rice, cakes, and drinks served in coconuts.

Festivities began with an opening ceremony that highlighted the universal instrument, the drum.  The Bongo Boy Music School led 100 drummers and encouraged the crowd to participate.  A procession was led by the Christ Church Cathedral’s Verger and Thurifers with leaders representing such religions as; Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Buddhists following in their traditional dress.  The opening ceremony continued with the recitations from the holy book of Islam, the Koran, and the sounds of a shofar which is made from a ram’s horn and used in Jewish synagogues during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

Throughout the day entertainment continued on the main stage.  Choirs from the Holy Angels Parish and Christ Church Cathedral sang various selections from their weekly worship services.The Hindu Sacred Music and Dancers performed the little-known Hindu mythological dance “Yakshagana” which resembles a theatrical performance.  St. George Orthodox Church from Fishers demonstrated the Middle Eastern culture with dancing, while the Sikkh Sacred Music and Dancers performed JAAGO, a Punjabi folk and wedding dance.  The White River Celtica Band put an Irish-Celtic spin on the day with reels and gigs.  Gospel music filled the air when The Faith Church Praise team took the stage.

One of the highlights of the festival was the Interfaith Dialogue and Prayer Service which was held in the War Memorial.  This discussion was moderated by Reverand Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, President of the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis.  The panel discussion centered around the faith on the tradition and significance of interfaith engagement and “the challenges and opportunities of interfaith community building.”  Participating in the panel discussion were: Sheikh Tewfiq Choukri, Al Fajr Mosque; Sister Norma Rocklage, OSF, Marian University; Dr. Dennis Sasso, Senior Rabbi Congregation Beth-El Zedeck; Bishop Cate Waynick, Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis; KP Singh, Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis; David Kinkade, The Church of Jesus Christ and Latterday Saints; Imam Mikal Saahir, Nur Allah Islamic Center; Dr. Vimal Patel, Hindu Temple of Central Indiana; and Rev. Dr. Mathew Boulton, Christian Theological Seminary.  Those residents, who attended the Festival of Faiths, were given a rare opportunity to hear these various religious leaders offer their perspectives on bringing together the many diverse religions in Central Indiana.

During the day the Indiana World War Memorial was open for tours for festival-goers.  The Memorial was built to honor those individuals who sacrificed during the “Great War” and to inspire the pursuit of peace and understanding among all people.  This theme mirrored what the organizers of the Festival of Faiths was wanting to achieve that day.

The inaugural Festival of Faiths was an excellent opportunity for residents to meet and talk with many of the religious churches and organizations throughout Central Indiana.  It was a great learning experience for old and young alike.  It was unfortunate that some religions chose not to be represented at the Festival because this was a missed opportunity for them to bring their faiths to the Indiana community.