Wichita, the “Air Capital of the World” since its boom between World War I and II, is home to aviation giants Learjet, Cessna, Raytheon, Airbus, and—until 2012—Boeing as well as McConnell Air Force Base. One distinctive landmark in the city is the 43-foot sculpture, “Keeper of the Plains,” that was gifted to the city in 1974 from artist Blackbear Bosin. The sculpture, which now stands at the Mid-America All Indian Center, is located in the heart of the city where the Little and Big Arkansas rivers converge, a reminder of the ongoing strength of the Native American community in Wichita and of the collaborative spirit that exists between native people and the rest of the city.
Wichita’s interfaith infrastructure is numerically small for a city of 382,000; however, interfaith roots are seasoned and deep. Wichita Inter-Faith Ministries began 125 years ago and boasts a long history of social activism that includes public opposition to Nazism, a commitment to refugee resettlement since the 1950s, and, beginning in the 1970s, initiatives to end homelessness. In the mid-1980s, Wichita’s religious leaders invited colleagues from the United States, Mexico, and Canada to join them for “North America Assisi,” a prayer conference inspired by Pope John Paul II’s invitation to world religious leaders. The Wichita-based Assisi conference drew over 300 people and gave birth to the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN). Global Faith in Action, one of the newest interfaith organizations in Wichita, understands the city’s interfaith legacy and sees the city as “a place where new, innovative interfaith dialogue is welcomed and expected.”