Center for Interfaith Cooperation — Indy Festival of Faiths: Embracing Religious Diversity

KP Singh, Punjab News Express, September 25, 2019
KP Singh in the Drumming Circle. Credit: Bill Foley

The 7th Annual Indy Festival of Faiths was a ‘Sangam’ (confluence)  of many cultures and religious traditions. Organized by the Center for Interfaith Cooperation at Veterans Memorial Plaza, Downtown, Indianapolis, the Religious Diversity festival attracted a large number of visitors and participants from all major religions of the world and interfaith communities.

After the Procession of Faiths, groups gather before the Sacred Arts Stage. Credit: Rebecca Holloway

Wisdom of Vedas, Sikh Satsang Indianapolis, Jain Center of Central Indiana,  Brahma Kumaris and Hindu Temple of Central Indiana were among 70 exhibitors.

The Jain Community. Credit: Bill Foley

City Mayor Joe Hogsett said ” since its founding in 2011, the CIC has worked to connect interfaith communities through volunteer service and civic engagement and pursue peace through increased understanding and cooperation.

Mayor Joe Hogsett. Credit: Bill Foley

“With the theme “Embracing Religious Diversity” this year’s celebration is sure to provide excellent opportunities for conversation, understanding, and growth. … Today’s  festivities showcase the spirit of Indianapolis and prove the power of Hoosiers  coming together to shape an even stronger future for our community.”

Sikh gentleman, Maninder Walia, and Mayor Joe Hogsett. Credit: Bill Foley

Participation in interfaith drum circle was a wonderful experience. Persons of all ages gained experience of playing drums which were provided by Bongo Boy Drum School. It was followed by Procession of Faiths and Opening Ceremony with welcome remarks. The parade was led by  Boy Scout Troop 396.

Boy Scout Troupe leads the Procession of Faiths. Credit: Bill Foley

Faith leaders on the dais were  Sonal  Sanghani (Festival chair and Emcee), Dr Anita Joshi (Hindu), Dhabih Chulhaai (Bhai), Fred Schwab (Jewish president),  David Kinard (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Maria Pimental Gannon (Catholic), Imam Mikal Saahir (Muslim),  Chirjeev Oberoi and KP Singh (Sikh).

Religious leaders and youth on the Sacred Arts Stage for the opening prayers. Credit: Bill Foley.

Nityanjali Dance School presented  Bharatnatayam dance, one of the oldest  forms of Indian classical dance performance. Nirtyagan Kathak Academy  performed vandana before the start of the dance performance. The lyrics of Jain Bhajan was about deep devotion to Tirthankaras, who are venerated by Jains as God.

South Asian dancing. Credit: Bill Foley.

Celtic Rain: An original  Celtic Spiritual  Fusion Folk Band made up of Guitar, Celtic Drum and Tom Drum, Flute and Bagpipes, who produced beautiful music and change lives together with their hearts and their music.

Uyghur dancer. Credit: Bill Foley

There was a unique performance by Uyghurs Culture Troupe. The Muslim culture’s music and dance were performed by Uyghurs, Turkic people living in China and Central Asia. Indianapolis Opera Resident Artists also enthralled the spectators.

Sikh sacred choir. Credit: Bill Foley.

Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis shared the singing of the hymn of their Gurus. It is popularly known as Shabaad Kirtan– singing the praises of God. Kirtan is literally divine music.

Rev. Dolores Thornton. Credit: Bill Foley.
Spoken word artist Callie Sanders. Credit Bill Foley.

Spoken word artists Callie Sanders and Rev. Delores Thornton recited poems inspired by social ills, death, and God’s healing grace.

Saints in Song. Credit: Bill Foley.

Saints in Song was an all-star choir from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. rivers cultures and religious traditions.

Sikhs pose with a freshly tied turban on Erica Irish. Credit: Bill Foley

The Sikh community members were seen explaining the importance of “Turban” (headgear) in their faith.  They spread this message by tying turbans of the visitors’ heads. The visitors, including women, girls, and children got their turbans tied to their heads and seemed to be excited. The Sikh community also served food, light refreshment and water free of cost.

Community Youth Forum. Credit: Cenk Kandemir

“Role Models, Religious Diversity and Mental Wellness were the topics for discussions.” said Cenk Kandemir from the Niagara Foundation. “Youth from many religious traditions gathered to discuss the most important questions we face, and how we should address them.”

Tony Wiederhold leads free, friendly yoga. Credit: Rebecca Holloway

There was free, friendly yoga offered. There were over 70 exhibitors, including Wisdom of Vedas, Sikh Satsang Indianapolis, Jain Center of Central Indiana,  Brahma Kumaris and Hindu Temple of Central Indiana.

Brahma Kumaris in the Procession of Faiths. Credit: Rebecca Holloway.

The Center for Interfaith Cooperation booth provided complete information regarding the 2019 Indy Festival of Faiths. CIC Executive Director Charlie Wiles was overall supervising the Festival.

CIC executive director Charlie Wiles, Festival chair Sonal Sanghani, and CIC board chair David Shaheed. Credit: Bill Forley.
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