The 22nd annual Festival of Faiths takes place in Louisville April 19-22. The Festival of Faiths is bringing together world-renowned religious leaders, thought leaders, politicians, authors, artists, and musicians for thought-provoking and hard-hitting dialogue on the Festival’s theme: Compassion – Shining Like the Sun. The Festival will be held at the Kentucky Center for the Arts April 19-21 and move to Spalding University on April 22 for a special Earth Day celebration.

Compassion – Shining Like the Sun is a phrase that originated with renowned Monk Thomas Merton when he experienced a spiritual epiphany in downtown Louisville at the street corner of Fourth and Walnut (now Muhammad Ali Blvd).

The list of preeminent speakers includes:

  • Naomi Tutu – peace advocate and daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner the Rev. Desmond Tutu
  • Karen Armstrong – renowned British religions author
  • Matthew Barzun – former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom
  • James Comer – U.S. Republican congressman from Kentucky
  • Rabbi Rami Shapiro – award–winning teacher and author of over 30 books on spirituality
  • Azhar Usman – “Americaʼs Funniest Muslim” (CNN)

Former NBC “Today Show” host Ann Curry and nationally acclaimed singing group Linkin’ Bridge and Country Music sensation, Imaj, have been added to the impressive lineup of speakers and performers. All will appear at a free, ticketless event Wednesday, April 19, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption.

Curry, who’s been praised for journalistic work on human suffering in war-torn countries, will serve as the festival’s keynote speaker. Her speech will address the festival’s theme.

Linkin’ Bridge, which bolted to national fame by being a finalist on the NBC show “America’s Got Talent,” will lead the musical lineup at the festival’s opening night. The session will also feature the Humanity Passport Project Greater Community Choir who welcomes Wayside Christian Mission’s “Down By The Wayside” choir.

Opening night

The opening night is curated by Ambassador Shabazz, a social philanthropist, international innovator and founder of the Humanity Passport Project.  She is the eldest of six daughters born to the Human Rights inspirations Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz.

Ambassador Shabazz

The first night of the 22nd Festival of Faiths is designed to be a joyful evening of music, song, and soul at downtown’s historic Cathedral of the Assumption. The festival runs through April 22nd with most sessions at the Center for the Arts. The final day, Earth Day, will take place at Spalding College.

“The noisy, superficial discussions have been exhausted, and people aren’t interested in the us-vs-them debates anymore. We are bringing together rock stars in their fields to roll up their sleeves and engage in discussions on how our urban areas can become places where educational achievement grows, crime decreases, economic development flourishes, medical care improves and people do a better job of helping each other,” said Sarah Reed Harris, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Relations.

Louisville is an ideal “laboratory” city to host the event because it has also been named a Model City for Compassion by the International Charter for Compassion. The Festival offers itself as an honest broker and stakeholder in dialogue around authentic compassion. Panelists will present alternative visions of economic models that put the value on people, the environment, and health over profit.

“We are acclaimed for compassion. We are creating benchmarks and want to show how a moderate-sized city can be a big-time leader. But we acknowledge that we still have a long way to go,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who joins Karen Armstrong, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, and national mayors for the opening session.


Thursday morning starts with Religion and Politics with Religion and Compassion in World Affairs. Ambassador Matthew Barzun, a Louisville native who is also a known internet pioneer and grassroots fundraiser, shares the stage with religions author Karen Armstrong and Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor and Middle East expert.

Naomi Tutu is one of the featured speakers on Thursday, April 20, for Living Compassion. Tutu is joined by Rev. Kevin Cosby of St. Stephens Church and Rami Nashashibi, an Arab-American activist and professor of Islam.

The Festival concludes on Earth Day, April 22, with activities at Spalding University. The dialogue will explore shifting our relationship to the earth to one of deep interdependence. More details on the 2017 Festival of Faiths at and view/download full program and speaker bio’s here.