CLEARWATER — For those looking for an unusual way to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a four-day conference this weekend might be just the ticket.
The 2010 Interfaith Conference, "Reconciliation with the Earth, Each Other and the Stranger," will feature themes of creating a right relationship with the earth and gaining a better understanding of a variety of religious cultures and viewpoints.
"If people are seeking to reach out across religious and cultural barriers to do the work of Martin Luther King, this is an excellent opportunity," said the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, senior minister of Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, the host church for the conference.
The event is being organized by the U.S. chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom and the World Congress of Faiths. It is a regional forum, leading up to the International Association for Religious Freedom Conference being held in India in September. The Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak at that event.
The four-day regional conference includes workshops, an interfaith panel discussion and several worship services.
The keynote speaker for the event is Bill Schulz, the former head of Amnesty International USA. His presentation will focus on the gradual creation of an international justice system that is based on judicial rather than political action.
He also will discuss how people of different religious cultures can co-exist and work better together.
"Religions are a source of a great deal of conflict in the world. This is not news," said Schulz, who also is a Unitarian Universalists minister. "One critical question is how do we reconcile ourselves to different religious views and reach some sort of accord."
Schulz is a member of a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C., and a professor at New York University and the Meadville Lombard Theological School of the University of Chicago.
On Friday night, an interfaith concert will celebrate King's birthday and honor his principles and values, Janamanchi said.
The concert will feature musical groups from different faith traditions and a multicultural percussive ensemble led by renowned jazz musician Fred Johnson.
Other performers include a Jewish baritone, Christian and Muslim singers and Hindu and Baha'i choirs.
Although there is a registration fee for the conference itself, the interfaith worship services and the concert are free and open to the public.
Janamanchi hopes the conference will help people of different religious beliefs to better understand the perspective of others.
"If we have understanding of one another," he said, "even if we don't agree, we can learn to love one another."