More than 700 people representing many faiths gathered on the afternoon of 11 February 2007 in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square to attend the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable’s annual concert celebrating the culmination of its Interfaith Week. The concert was billed as a musical tribute to the human spirit, as “A Call to Prayer — A Call to Peace.” It featured three cantors from Islamic, Christian and Jewish traditions who called the concert attendees to prayer. Seven groups representing a cross-section of Utah’s rich faith traditions performed a series of musical numbers and dances based on the prayer and peace themes.
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Dr. James Pingree, representing the Salt Lake Public Affairs Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, welcomed attendees and shared his excitement for the event. He referred to the closing song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and indicated that the daughter of the song’s composers had given concert organizers permission to use it. Pingree quoted the daughter as saying: “This is exactly the kind of an event for which the song was written. Your use of it would please them very much.”
Utah Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. also welcomed concert attendees by reading a declaration of the importance of interfaith dialogue and collaboration. Huntsman emphasized the necessity of working together as Utah continues to grow in cultural and religious diversity. “Love and hope are two of the most powerful words in the English language,” he said. “And this great group is spreading love and hope through celebrating diversity.”
The Wesley Bell Ringers from the Christ United Methodist Church started the musical portion of the program by playing “La Paix” (“Peace”) to express the Methodist belief of “God’s presence in our lives and of the hope that He brings.” They were followed by Arvol Looking Horse, the keeper of the original Lakota Sacred Pipe, who offered the “Four Directions Prayer” sacred to Native Americans.
Gayatri Jayaraman, wearing traditional Hindu dress, performed “Ganesha Kautuvam,” a Bharatanatyam dance that was originally performed in Hindu temples and has its roots in prayer. The Tongan Wesleyan Choir performed “All the Earth Will Bow Down to You, Jesus” under the direction of Anitoni Ma”u. The song was written to praise God and to pray to God for His work of creation.
The Ogden Buddhist Taiko Group, under the direction of Stan Hirai and the Buddhist Church of Ogden, performed a drum number entitled “Ashura” (“War”). However, in this context “war” refers to conflicts “in our everyday lives and how we deal with those conflicts.” For Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, the drums symbolize the voice of Buddha.
Students from the Iqra Academy of Islamic Society sang two Islamic songs in Arabic: “Lejla Ramie” and “Talitha Two Moons.” The principal of the academy said the songs remind the children that “when we remember God before any activity, we are asking Him for guidance as well as seeking His pleasure for doing our daily duties.” The University Student Vocal Ensemble from the University of Utah, whose members represent a number of faith traditions, then performed a rendition of “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth.”
A closing prayer of peace was given by Jan Saeed, a member of the Baha’i Faith, after which the audience stood and sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
Many expressed their appreciation to the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable for organizing the concert. “Tonight represented harmony, unity and openness,” said Heather Whiteblume. “Everyone here respects each other’s prayers, beliefs and culture.”
Hafsa Abdikadir said, “There was peace and togetherness with all the faiths.” Nobunari Isono added: “Everyone was united tonight. Everyone came together to share. It was wonderful.”
The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable was organized under the auspices of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee in order to include all faith traditions in ministering to Olympic athletes and to “facilitate interfaith respect, understanding appreciation through interfaith dialogue.” The success of the roundtable was obvious, and members voted to continue the tradition after the Olympics. The group continues to meet monthly and boasts more than 120 members.