Save the Date! 1st Annual Cincinnati Festival of Faiths

1st Annual Greater Cincinnati FESTIVAL OF FAITHS

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by Chip Harrod

WHAT:    A weeklong festival in June of 2018  to showcase Greater Cincinnati’s religious diversity and vitality,  to celebrate religion’s contributions to our community’s quality of life, and  to model our exemplary interfaith relations and collaboration. 

Including:      A Day of Community Service – interfaith groupings of volunteers will spend the day together performing community service, followed by a discussion of their shared experience.  (There will be optional days and service projects.  This activity should be of special appeal to younger audiences.)

Concluding:  A Day of Celebration – a fun and educational festival, featuring music and culture, purely non-political, within a setting of many and diverse religious group exhibitors; to include opportunities for interfaith prayer/meditation and dialogue.  (A Sunday afternoon from 1:00-5:00 p.m.)

Inaugural theme:   “Compassion through Action”

WHY:     Religion and religious expression contribute to the soul of a community - its values, its norms, its institutional mores, its human relations, its compassion and, ultimately, its progress.  Cincinnati has been blessed with a rich history of religion’s contributions, especially to the advancement of a civil, socially just, and welcoming community.  As a force for good, our faith community should be celebrated and encouraged to continue its commitment to strengthen and unify our city.  Moreover, there’s value in being reminded of Cincinnati’s leading example as a community that appreciates its religious pluralism and inter-religious collaboration.  The last occasion when the entire community lifted up organized religion and our religious heritage in any major way for public recognition was the 1988 Interfaith Celebration of Cincinnati’s Bicentennial.  There has been nothing on this scale since. 

Two neighboring cities have “festivals of faith:” Louisville (23rd year) and Indianapolis (5th year).  From visits to both cities entailing meetings with their respective festival organizers, we’ve learned of these community benefits from hosting a festival:

·      Unites the community;

·      Demonstrates that religious pluralism is good for a community;

·      Builds interfaith understanding and cooperation;

·      Nurtures community through enlightened programs;

·      Stimulates common action to address community needs; and,

·      Connects people to the region’s religious congregations and faith-based organizations.

HOW TO:   Cincinnati’s Bridges of Faith Trialogue will take the administrative lead in organizing the Cincinnati Festival of Faiths.  It will provide the project management, assemble an inclusive Festival Steering Committee, handle the logistics, arrangements and promotions, adopt participation guidelines, and seek the required resources for delivering the companion events of the festival and day of service.  Volunteers will be necessary to delivering a successful event.

The Bridges of Faith Trialogue is a 501c3 nonprofit, which has this mission:  

The Bridges of Faith Trialogue is a non-partisan civic organization founded upon interfaith dialogue that works to develop educational and community service programming to foster greater understanding, respect, compassion, inclusion and engagement for all people and faith communities in Cincinnati and beyond. 

BUDGET:  The budget for a Cincinnati Festival of Faiths is roughly estimated at $27,000.  We expect to receive both in-kind and cash donations.  Group sponsorships will be available, and there will be a participation fee for exhibitors.

WHERE:   For the Day of Celebration we have chosen a spacious indoor venue, reserving the Cintas Center of Xavier University; free parking.

WHEN:   The Greater Cincinnati Festival of Faiths will be held on June 24, 2018.  

SPECIAL FEATURES AND POTENTIAL COLLATERAL ACTIVITIES:  interfaith prayer service; guest speakers; opportunity for dialogue; fun activities, e.g., Sikh turban-tying, picture-taking with a life-size cardboard cutout of Pope Francis; diverse music and entertainment; youth component.  We are contemplating a range of speakers and educational programs at diverse venues the week leading up to the June 24th Day of Celebration.

EARLY SUPPORTERS OF THIS IDEA:  Entities that have expressed interest in this preliminary concept include the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue of Xavier University, Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Diocese of Southern Ohio, Christ Church Cathedral Cincinnati, K. K. Bene Israel/Rockdale Temple, American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Cincinnati Sikh community, Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC)-Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, AMOS Project, Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati (MARCC), Kids4Peace, The Holocaust and Humanity Center.

Festival Steering Committee (to date):  Umama Alam, James Buchanan Ph.D., Jackie Congedo, Chip Harrod, Rabbi Meredith Kahan, Sandy Kaltman (Co-Chair), Justin Kirschner, Inayat Malik M.D., Maria Munir (Co-Chair), Jan and Bruce Seidel, Jaipal Singh, Tony Stieritz, Sarah Weiss, Rev. Canon Manoj Zacharia (Co-Chair), Rabbi Gary Zola.

Religious communities are, without question, the largest and best organized civil institutions in the world today, claiming the allegiance of billions of believers and bridging the divides of race, class and nationality.  They are uniquely equipped to meet the challenges of our time; resolving conflicts, caring for the earth, the sick and needy, and promoting peaceful coexistence among all people.” -  Religions for Peace