on Aug. 23, 2008
After a two-year hiatus, the Cleveland Nama Hatta Program, a multi-cultural group of “Hare Krsnas” and their well-wishers in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area, again hosted the Lord Have Mercy Festival. Servants of God from a variety of religious traditions were invited to sing, dance, recite poetry, enact dramas and more, to thank God for His mercy and act in a spirit of unity and harmony. The Nama Hatta Program has coordinated this festival since 1997 at a local park with a professional stage and sound system.
This year the festival was held on the appearance day of the first expansion of the Lord, Balarama, on August 16, 2008 at Forest Hill Park in East Cleveland, OH. The weather, balmy and beautiful, seemed to offer homage to the Lord as Sufis recited esoteric poetry, a Christian minister, Pastor Figueroa, stopped passers by in their tracks with his beautiful rendition of "How Great Thou Art" in Spanish and then in English. A Jewish musician offered songs and stories of peace. Muslims recited beautiful Arabic prayers and then translated them into English. A local youth gospel choir sang songs. A mime duet, Highly Favored, brought tears to some eyes with their act. Carlos and the Plus Band, a local, highly acclaimed reggae band and the Hue People, another local acappella group, shared uplifting and stimulating music; and the Hare Krishnas captivated the audience with lively kirtans, a skit, "Back Into A Mouse" by the Hare Krsna children’s group, and a delicious, multi-course vegetarian feast.
One of the spokespersons for the festival, Tariq Saleem Ziyad said, "This festival is special each year. Although the festival is named 'The Lord Have Mercy Festival' we come here to testify in an artistic form "the Lord has mercy". Many people report that they feel harmony, healing and happiness at the festival. We host this festival with a theme of One God flowing His Love through all His creation with great mercy and we pray to show that mercy to others." The atmosphere of service is highlighted as colorful, well-dressed devotees move gracefully about, distributing bottles of water and seeing to the comfort of the festival attendees.
During the festival, workshops on healthy relationships, how your religion shows compassion and yoga were held. A chess tournament also took place. Michelle Patton, a frequent attendee at the Lord Have Mercy Festivals exclaimed, "You Hare Krishnas really know how to throw a party. A good time was had by all".
Mr. Ahura Burns from the Sufi Order International called to tell the Festival coordinators, "That was a great festival; I really enjoyed myself; the presentations were wonderful! Let us know how we can work with you in the future."
Next year’s festival, in August 2009, promises to be even more unifying as many enthusiastic attendees volunteered to assist with planning and preparation.
For more information, interested persons may visit the Lord Have Mercy Festival website at: www.lordhavemercyfestival.com