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The Festival of Faiths comes to a close Saturday afternoon with a silent “compassion walk” through the streets of downtown Louisville.

This year’s theme is “Sacred Wisdom: Pathways to Non-violence.”

I spoke with two of the festival’s participants — Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, a longtime peace and social justice activist, and religious historian Karen Armstrong. We talked about the meaning of compassion and the state of spirituality in the world.

Rev. Campbell on the meaning of compassion:

“When you take compassion seriously, you will come to a lot of people who totally misunderstand what you’re doing. They think it’s really tied to being nice and I think being nice is wonderful, but I think it’s not what it’s about. It’s about taking a risk, taking a chance, standing for something that will really change the way in which we relate to one another in a world unfortunately painted with prejudice.”

Karen ArmstrongCourtesy Festival of Faiths

Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong on the state of the world’s spiritual health:

“Religion isn’t just about believing things or singing hymns or getting a nice warm glow while you’re in church. As we’ve just been talking about Dr. (Martin Luther) King — it’s about risk. It’s about putting yourself in harm’s way and seeing what needs to be done to the world, and bringing the message of compassion — which lies at the heart of all our religious traditions — to bear on this extremely aggressive and dangerously divisive time we’re living in.”

Rick Howlett is WFPL's Broadcast Managing Editor and also produces feature and general assignment radio stories.