Interfaith leader to address religion summit

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Christy Brown
Christy Brown

Christy Brown, a longtime leader in the Louisville religious community, will soon take her message to an international audience.

Brown, a member of the Cathedral of the Assumption, will address the Religions for Peace 9th World Assembly in Vienna, Austria, later this month.

Brown helped found the Center for Interfaith Relations, previously known as the Cathedral Heritage Foundation. The center aims to celebrate the diversity of faiths and annually sponsors a Festival of Faiths. Brown continues to serve on the board of directors for the center.

Brown’s involvement in Religions for Peace goes back several decades, she said in a recent interview. Brown and her husband, the late Owsley Brown II, were charter members of the international trustees of Religions for Peace. In the organization’s early days, she said, she and her husband helped to advocate for and advise the organization.

Religions for Peace is regarded as the world’s largest interfaith entity, Brown said. The global organization aims to stop wars, end poverty and protect the Earth.

The world assembly convenes every six to seven years. Brown attended the previous assembly in Kyoto, Japan, in 2006, and called the experience “extraordinarily inspiring.”

“It was very overwhelming, standing in a sea of inspired people,” she recalled.

Brown’s address is titled “Sustainability Revolution: Sacred Air, Sacred Water and Sacred Soil.” She said this topic has been important to her for some time, and the local Festival of Faiths has, on numerous occasions, centered on these themes.

Brown recalled the fifth commandment, “Thou shall not kill” and questioned how individuals can “hold their shoulders back” as they are depleting water sources and killing whole species of animals.

She said she hopes the world’s religious leaders hear her plea to come together to find new ways
to preserve the earth.

“My hope is that my piece will inspire them to see it (preserving the Earth) as an absolute  priority,” she said. “I hope there is an understanding of the sacredness of air, water and soil and that its preservation becomes a priority.”

Kathleen Lyons, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Relations, said the whole notion of the “Sustainability Revolution” goes back to the creation story when God entrusted the stewardship of the Earth to Adam and his descendents.

Lyons, who is helping Brown put together her address, said Pope Francis also calls for better treatment of God’s earth.

“He chose the name ‘Francis’ because St. Francis loved the Earth and the poor,” Lyons noted.

She also said that choice connects stewardship with the care for life.

Brown said she has drawn inspiration from Pope Francis; His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Head of the Orthodox Church; His Holiness the Dalai Lama; and
Wendell Berry, Kentucky environmentalist, poet and author, as she prepares for her address.

In addition to talking about the sacredness of the earthly elements, Brown said she hopes to impart the responsibility of people of all faiths to reverence life, both earthly and human.

“Having lost my husband, I know how gloriously precious life is,” she said. “I have nine grandchildren and the bottom line is if the Earth isn’t taken care of it won’t be here for them.”

She considers the opportunity to address more than 600 religious leaders from around the world an honor and hopes they incorporate what they hear into their own faith traditions.

“I felt proud to be asked and very comfortable saying yes,” she said. “All the work I have done here (with the center and the festival) have prepared me for this.”

Those who know Brown speak of her kindness, confidence and feisty aggressiveness when it comes to those sacred topics to which she has given her heart — and her efforts.

Brown said her faith is a driving factor in her work to promote the sacredness of God’s earth.

“My faith continues to motivate me everyday to see what I can do to help,” she explained.

Lyons said the idea of Brown’s talk is a very basic concept that “we are all interconnected.”

“Our lives, everything, are all connected to what was, to what is and to what will be.”

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