Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Religious conference to feature Kennedy, Gandhi family members

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A 10-day conference aimed at bringing together people of different religious faiths will feature appearances by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

Kennedy will open the Festival of Faiths on Sunday with a keynote address focusing on the relationship between spirituality and environmental activism.

Kennedy, president of the activist Waterkeeper Alliance and son of the slain U.S. senator, has led legal battles to protect New York state waterways.

"It's only been in the last several decades that people in the various religions have come to think of concern for the environment as part of their spiritual practice," said Terry Taylor, executive director of the sponsoring Cathedral Heritage Foundation.

Kennedy is credited with taking legal action to halt pollution in areas such as the Hudson River and Long Island Sound, arguing cases to expand citizen access to shorelines and suing sewage treatment plants to force compliance with the Clean Water Act.

A prayer breakfast on Nov. 13 will feature Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. The elder Gandhi successfully led a nonviolent campaign for India's independence from Britain before being assassinated in 1948.

Arun Gandhi directs the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, based in Memphis, Tenn., which aims to continue to apply such principles to current conflicts.

"Nonviolence is an active principle, not a passive one," Taylor said. "It's not to lie down and let people walk all over you. It's something that's very active and requires great courage."

The festival also will include a talk by Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson and Police Chief Robert White on faith and community activism. Catholic priest-activists Daniel Berrigan and John Dear will talk about nonviolence and evangelical Christian author Ron Sider will speak on the problem of hunger amid wealth. The common theme is the relationship of faith to justice, Taylor said.

An annual Children of Abraham Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 12 at Temple Shalom will bring together Jews, Christians and Muslims.

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