Bahai News -- Deseret News - Many voices one prayer Monday, February 10, 2003

Many voices one prayer

S.L.'s 2nd annual interfaith service focuses on peace

By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret News religion editor

      People of a score of faiths joined together to sing for peace Sunday at the Tabernacle on Temple Square during a diverse interfaith service in which Cambodian dancers shared the stage with American Indian drummers.
A member of the Khemera Cambodian Dancers take the stage in the S.L. Tabernacle Sunday and perform the Buddhist Temple Blessing Dance as part of a diverse interfaith service on Temple Square.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
      Organizers estimate nearly 4,000 filled the Tabernacle for the second annual Interfaith Musical Tribute to the Human Spirit, believed to be the most musically and spiritually diverse event ever hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
      Music was interspersed with prayer and song, beginning with lone flutist Nino Reyos, a Ute/Pueblo, entering the rear of the Tabernacle in traditional dress, walking slowly up the center aisle playing a traditional melody on his wooden flute.
      Ute Elder Quentin Kolb thanked the creator "for the time you take to listen, for your blessings and for your creation . . . We are bound together just as surely as the matter of Einstein's energy. We can act in your name, celebrate your victories and are bound in your work."
      The Eagle Eye Drum Group formed a circle on the rostrum just below the choir seats, chanting its "Honor Song" to the rising and falling beat of drums that reverberated throughout the Tabernacle.
      The Orchestra at Temple Square performed a number by Beethoven, then cleared the stage after Arati Sinha offered a Hindu prayer asking that "our leaders in whom we have trusted (may) realize that war . . . leaves behind no winners, only victims."
      St. Paul's Episcopal Choir and the Utah Valley Mass Choir filled the choir seats below the organ-pipe backdrop, dressed in traditional choir robes and offering up widely varying versions of musical worship — the former in reverenced a capella and the latter in Pentecostal praising, complete with a recorded band for back-up.
      Cantor Laurence Loeb of Congregation Kol Ami vocalized a Jewish prayer of Psalms 116, followed by a group of Hispanic Catholic guitarists, whose Spanish renditions included "My Mother of Guadalupe."

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
      Nahzaneen Aghdassi offered a unity prayer, saying her family came from a nation where members of her Baha'i faith "were persecuted or even put to death. . . . Here in Salt Lake City, friends of all faiths love and respect me for who I am.
      "It is my hope and my dream that some day all nations will cherish religious diversity as we do here today."
      Christian Science spokeswoman Sabrina Stillwell echoed Aghdassi's sentiments, saying, "love is the only power. Let it touch and transform each one of us in deep and meaningful ways" so that "faults and stereotypes (won't) separate us. Let us see each other as we really are."
      Five Cambodian dancers in traditional costume took the stage for a Buddhist Temple Blessing Dance, holding silver urns with flower petals they tossed forward to conclude their performance as former Mormon Tabernacle Choir director Jerold Ottley and others watched from the wings.
      Masood Ul-Hasan of the Islamic Society of Salt Lake said Allah "has given each of us a message, to live in peace and harmony together as one human kind as we did during the Olympics."
      The Wesley Bell Ringers capped the evening's musical tributes, with harmonies that reflected the warmth participants felt as Interfaith Roundtable chairwoman Jan Saeed offered a closing thanks to the LDS Church for its hospitality. She asked that participants view themselves and others as "one children of the same God."
      Ottley led the choirs and congregation in a closing hymn, "Let There Be Peace on Earth."
      LDS Presiding Bishop H. David Burton welcomed participants to the event, which capped a week of interfaith events organized by the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.
      Gov. Mike Leavitt issued a proclamation declaring Feb. 2-9 as "Interfaith Week in Utah," in conjunction with other events celebrating the first anniversary of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics.
      The proclamation said "now, more than ever, there is a need for greater understanding between different faith traditions." Though Utahns came together in unprecedented ways during the Olympics, some have wondered since whether a religious fracture in the community over free speech on the Main Street Plaza has soured the goodwill.
      Participants in Sunday night's event would likely say no.


©Copyright 2003, Deseret News (UT, USA)

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