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Interfaith Harmony Week Commemorated in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, USA - The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable’s annual Interfaith Month officially began on February 2 with an invitation-only prayer breakfast at the Salt Lake Marriot Downtown Hotel. The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable has celebrated February as Interfaith Month since 2002 because the members of the 22 different religious groups who served as chaplains during the 2002 Winter Olympics wanted to continue meeting as they knew they had an important statement to make and wanted to highlight the diversity of faiths in Utah.

In addition, we joined with groups around the world that also held prayer breakfasts on the first Thursday of February in recognition of “World Interfaith Harmony Week,” whose theme this year is “We are All Connected to Compassion.”

Approximately 80 people from many faiths were warmly welcomed to the prayer breakfast by Rev. Ivan Cendese, an Episcopalian and Executive Director of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.

J.B. Singh of the Sikh Temple of Utah and Roundtable Board member was invited to offer an opening prayer to begin the breakfast. He offered the Sikh prayer “Ardas.”

Josie Stone, 2011 Interfaith Month Chair, then spoke briefly of the upcoming interfaith activities during the month, such as enjoying traditional cuisine at a Jewish-Muslim cooking class or a pre-Lenten Shrove Tuesday Pancake supper; to learn more about other faiths by attending their services such as Pan Orthodox, Hindu, Sikh, or Deeksha services; attend lectures to learn about other faiths such as the Unification Church or the lecture series at Westminster College. The month-long activities will conclude with the annual Interfaith Musical Tribute.

Mr. Dean Kaelin, the Interfaith Tribute chair, gave a brief summary of what to look forward to at the musical tribute where the diverse faiths of Utah come together through dance, song, sacred text, and prayer. He was joined by Alan Bachman, 2011-2012 Roundtable Chair, who encouraged everyone to bring their family and friends, calling it one of the greatest experiences a person can have.

After a short interval of fellowship and to enjoy breakfast, Rev. Cendese invited Karen Hale, a representative from Salt Lake City Mayor’s office, to read their proclamation recognizing February as “2012 Interfaith Month.” Proclamations were also received from Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon. The latter proclamation was read at the end of the program.

Roundtable Secretary, Elaine Emmi, presented the 2012 Community Award to Safi Safiullah, Librarian of the Salt Lake Downtown Main Library, and his staff for promoting understanding in this diverse community.

Rev. Cendese presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to past Board Chair, Brian Farr, recognizing his years of service to the Roundtable. Brian’s membership dates from 1999 and the creation of the Olympic Interfaith Roundtable. In presenting the award, Rev. Cendese expressed his appreciation and thanks to Brian “for supporting and strengthening the interfaith movement by your service and example.”

Alan Bachman presented two, first-time, “We Can't Live Without You” awards to Interfaith Month Planning Committee Chair, Josie Stone and her Business Assistant, Angela Aanerud. The award recognizes each one’s “stellar work in supporting Interfaith Month.”

Following the awards ceremony, Wendy Stovall a representative of the Universal Peace Federation and Roundtable Board member explained the background to the UN’s resolution and then read the four points of the UN resolution recognizing World Interfaith Harmony Week.

The guest speaker, John Kesler of the Salt Lake Center for Engaging Community, was introduced by Alan Bachman. Mr. Kesler spoke on “Civility as the Civic Expression of the Golden Rule: The Special Role of Faith Communities in our Polarized Society." According to Mr. Kesler, “Civility is essentially the civic expression of the Golden Rule, some version of which is common to all major faith traditions. In today’s polarized cultural and political environment it is perhaps our faith communities that have the greatest potential to provide the capacity for civic healing. Even more than ‘bridging the religious divide,’ it is time for our religious communities to come together in shared commitment and action to help us all to do better at treating one another as brothers and sisters in the public square.”

Following the Mr. Kesler’s presentation Rev. JoAnn Casey from St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral gave the benediction on behalf of Bishop Scott Hayashi, Eleventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, who was unable to attend due to ill health.

Rev. Ivan Cendese brought the program to a close by thanking everyone who made the tenth annual Interfaith Breakfast possible especially to the hotel staff and the generous financial assistance of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, the Universal Peace Federation, and anonymous donors.

For more information about World Interfaith Harmony Week, click here.

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