What do Muhammad Ali, Trappist monk Thomas Merton and His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama share in common? They each have a special connection with Louisville. Serving as the birthplace of Muhammad Ali, the location of Thomas Merton’s epiphany, and a destination that is highly regarded by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, Louisville is an important place in the world of thought, faith, compassion and opportunity.

The ideas and influences of each of these individuals are brought to light during Louisville’s ever-growing annual Festival of Faiths, hosted by the Center for Interfaith Relations. The festival, which began 22 years ago and is the first of its kind, has grown into a well-known international event, showcasing impressive guest speakers from across the globe and attracting visitors from a number of different countries. Scheduled for April 19 – 24, the 2017 Festival of Faiths titled “Compassion: Shining like the Sun” is sure to be the annual event’s biggest, most exciting yet.

Conversations on meaning

The key focus of the Festival is the question of meaning, making it a unique forum for looking at contemporary issues through a spiritual lens: from politics and the economy, to media, race and pop culture. The Center for Interfaith Relations believes these subjects deserve attention and deep discussion.

Attendees at the Festival of Faiths are engaged in “Conversations on Meaning” in a time of multiple crises of meaning involving internationally renowned faith leaders, thinkers and practitioners. Ideas, principles and wisdom from the depths of the world’s great spiritual traditions are explored, along with new research in science and social sciences, all with the goal of offering deeper insight on life’s most pressing issues. Referred to as the “Ted Talks of the Spiritual,” the Festival’s conversations inspire reflection and invite celebration.

Whether you have a strong spiritual, faith or secular background, and wherever you are on the political spectrum, you can find your own personal inspiration by attending the Festival of Faiths. The Festival offers the opportunity to connect with people from Louisville and all over the world, and learn how other religions and cultures have viewed the world and approached the subject of meaning. This event is much more than a fellowship of the religious — it’s an opportunity for personal empowerment, enrichment and community engagement.

© John Nation, photograph of the 2013 visit to Louisville by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

A showcase of our city’s compassion

Thanks to the vision and leadership of Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer, “compassionate city” is more than a soft description. It is becoming a true aspiration for many engaged local residents. And in an effort to contribute to Louisville’s commitment to compassion, the Festival of Faiths will reflect this year on what it means to be a compassionate city.

At the Mayor’s invitation, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will return to Louisville and be featured at the Festival of Faiths on April 23 and 24 at the KFC Yum! Center. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is returning to the city due to a deep sense of obligation to see what Louisville has done to cultivate compassion as a universal human responsibility in order to grow into a truly compassionate city.

At the Festival of Faiths, you can learn about many local innovations, including Louisville’s designation as an “International Model City of Compassion” and what this means to people in our community and around the world. You can also hear results of the 2017 Mayor’s “Give A Day” week of service as well as an update on the Compassionate Schools Project, which aims to educate “the whole child for self-awareness and self-understanding.” The experience should help us gain a greater understanding of the meaning of compassion and the factors that must combine to produce an authentically compassionate city.

An opportunity to discover new ideas and traditions

The 2017 Festival will look at how we would cultivate inward and outward compassion in the face of multiple challenges locally and globally: inequality, alienation, disinformation, racism, violence, polarization and fear.

In a time of extremes, of rapid change and a growing sense of disorientation, the Dalai Lama talks of the universal human need for “inner mental and emotional strength and balance,” regardless of religious affiliation. Moving from the global to the local, what would  a compassionate city look like? How would we integrate those universal interior values the Dalai Lama speaks of, those “principles for inner self-regulation” to rebalance our inward and outward health in the civic space and urban laboratory. How would we reimagine a compassionate city?

For more information on the Festival of Faiths, its schedule of events and its list of speakers, visit the event’s website or visit the Center for Interfaith Relations at 415 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.

Sign up for the latest announcements on the Festival of Faiths here: http://bit.ly/dalai-lama-lou-emails.

The Center invites readers to join in on discussions of meaning on compassion on social media pages, using the following hashtag: #compassionshining.

Update: Mayor Greg Fischer has announced that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to postpone his trip to Louisville. As a result, the Dalai Lama will not be featured at the 2017 Festival of Faiths. 

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