Baha'i News -- Festival of Faiths looks for a record crowd Sunday, November 10, 2002

Festival of Faiths looks for a record crowd

Louisville event to have scholars, spiritual guru

By Darla Carter
The Courier-Journal

With a speaker like medicalspiritual guru Deepak Chopra on the program and a heightened interest in spirituality among many people, organizers of the Festival of Faiths are hoping for record attendance this year.

Sponsored by the Cathedral Heritage Foundation, the festival will begin today and continue through next Sunday at various locations, said Thom Whittinghill, a spokesman for the foundation.

Last year's festival drew more than 10,000 people, setting the attendance record.

Many of those participants were on spiritual quests sparked by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- and such searching is likely to continue, Whittinghill said.

"A lot of people were seeking answers and wanting to learn more about different religions" last year, he said. Today, "that's still carried over because Sept. 11 is still so fresh in our minds."

Whittinghill said a big crowd is expected to hear Chopra, a physician and best-selling author who was hailed by Time magazine as one of the top figures of the 20th century.

"This is one of his rare appearances in this area," Whittinghill said.

Chopra will speak at 2:30 p.m. today at the Brown Theatre. He will make a shorter presentation at 7:30 tonight at the Cathedral of the Assumption, focusing on this year's festival theme, "Faith & Sacred Texts." Tickets are $20 to $60 for the afternoon session and $15 for the evening session; they can be purchased at the door or through Ticketmaster.

The phone has been "ringing off the hook," mostly because of interest in Chopra, Whittinghill said.

His fans include "a lot of people who have called and said they've had a major illness, and he's been able to help them through that through his teachings and through his insight -- and there's a lot of people that are just into that sort of New Age way of doing things," Whittinghill said.

Many other philosophies and religions also will be represented, including the Baha'i, Mormon, Methodist, Islamic, Hindu and Jewish faiths. "We have a good cross section of faith traditions," he said.

Harvard professor Ali Asani will make a presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the cathedral on misconceptions about the teachings of the Quran, the sacred book of Muslims.

"He's going to give us some wisdom on the fact that the Quran teaches tolerance among people of different faiths," Whittinghill said. "I think that's pretty timely."

The relevance of the Bible in the 21st century will be discussed by Patrick Allitt, a history professor at Emory University, at 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Louisville Free Public Library, and two other experts will talk about common features between cultures and faiths at noon Wednesday at Bellarmine University.

Much of this year's festival has a literary focus because of the theme, which will be explored by Martin Marty, a leading historian of religion, at noon Friday at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Exhibits at the Cathedral campus will include books, art and other items from various religious traditions. The pieces include the last letter that Thomas Merton, a Kentucky monk and theologian, wrote.

Also on display will be rare books from the collection of Dr. Ted Steinbock, a Louisville bibliophile. The exhibit is expected to include the first German-language Bible printed in the United States.

Nearly sold out is a prayer breakfast featuring a presentation on the relevance of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 21st century. Donald Parry, associate professor of Hebrew language and literature at Brigham Young University, will speak at the breakfast, which will be held at 7:30 a.m. Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Participatory events include a session on yoga from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the cathedral's museum, and a gospel music workshop at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at West Broadway United Methodist Church.

Other events include a Children of Abraham Dinner from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at James Lees Memorial Presbyterian Church, celebrating the common heritage of Jews, Christians and Muslims, and a presentation at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Hindu Temple on Accomack Drive about wisdom found in sacred texts of Hinduism.

Admission fees vary, and some events are free. For more information, check the Web at

©Copyright 2002, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

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