Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable chairman were among a few officials who urged members of the public to be “open to the ideas and beliefs of others” during the kick off of the Interfaith Month at Utah State capitol on Friday.
Those speaking at the opening event encouraged members of any faith background to attend upcoming events.
“In commemoration of Interfaith Month 2016, the Interfaith Roundtable encourages members of all faiths and belief systems to attend this sacred blessing for peace and understanding among all creation,” according to a press release.
Herbert referenced The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as he explained that meeting at the Capitol to celebrate faith was fitting since Utah was founded on those seeking religious freedom. “It’s a great concept of freedom and liberty we have in this country,” the governor said.
Herbert also proudly reiterated his faith as member of the LDS Church and said he was a “man of faith.”
“I believe there is something beyond this mortal existence,” he said. “I believe in a creator. I believe in God. I believe in a Heavenly Father.”
Chairman of Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable and assistant priest at Holy Trinity Cathedral and Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, Father Elias Koucos welcomed those in attendance and Interfaith Roundtable Board Member Lacee Harris, conducted the blessing, or a ‘pipe ceremony’ at the event.
Harris, who is also a member of the Northern Ute and Norther Paiute tribes, explained that the ‘pipe ceremony’ is “used to bring together all who are in the circle to a common purpose, in this case, a unity of spiritual beliefs to support the bringing together all of the spiritual philosophies that are represented, to show to those not in attendance that we can live and represent all spiritual beliefs in a single meeting of brothers, sisters, children of one creator.”
The Interfaith Roundtable is a non-profit organization consisting of over 220 individuals working to promote love, harmony, and an increased understanding among persons of all faith traditions, cultures and belief systems everywhere. During the year, the Interfaith Roundtable regularly supports a number of free community programs and events aimed at facilitating increased understanding through interfaith dialogue.
To some members attending the events, Interfaith Month is an opportunity to evaluate personal belief systems and delve deeper into others’ faith traditions.
An array of activities with a wide span of diversity will take place in different locations throughout Utah from Feb. 1 to March 5.
While the events are largely educational, they also pose opportunities for those in attendance to forge relationships and further their associations with different faith groups. Koucos, explained that camaraderies and understanding can be built upon respect without complete acceptance of someone’s faith.
“We don’t have to accept everything everyone professes to believe in, but we do respect and admire those traditions,” said Koucos.”
All remaining events, as scheduled below, are open to the public.
• Feb. 11 — LDS Church History Museum tour, 6:30 p.m., 45 N. West Temple
• Feb. 12 – Pacifica Institute presentation, 6:30 p.m., 3780 S. West Temple, Suite 201.
• Feb. 16 — Interfaith Leaders Luncheon, noon, Juan Diego High School, 300 E. 11800 South, Draper.
• Feb. 18 — Men of Faith, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, 7 p.m., 1969 View Street (1345 East).
• Feb. 19 — Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple Tour, 1142 S. Jordan River Parkway (10400 South), South Jordan.
• Feb. 20 — Islamic Society Open House, 5 p.m.
• Feb. 21 — Salt Lake City Baha’i Devotional Gathering, 10 a.m., 2358 E. 1700 South.
• Feb. 21 — Wiccan Full Moon Rite of Freyja, Salt Lake Pagan Society, 132 S. 800 West.
• Feb. 23 — Refugee Day of Interfaith Prayer, 11 a.m., MOSAIC Interfaith Ministries, 4392 S. 900 East.
• Feb. 24 — Bus tour, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.
• Feb. 25 — Introduction to Zen Buddhism, 6 p.m., Two Arrows Zen Meditation Center, 230 S. 500 West, Artspace Suites 145-155
• Feb. 27 — A Call to Religious and Non-Religious to Convene in Conversation, 1 p.m., Wasatch Retreat Center, 75 S. 200 East.
• Feb. 28 — Kol Ami Poetry Reading with Jacqueline Osherow, 10 a.m., Congregation Kol Ami., 2425 E. Heritage Way
• Feb. 28 — Calvary Church Annual Baptist Heritage Musical, 5 p.m., 1090 S. State Street
For updated information, visit interfaithroundtable.org.