Religious Statement Calls For Peace, Justice, Unity
BY HEATHER MAY
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
The message is not new. Tolerance and neighborly love are topics religions
have preached for centuries.
But after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and in light of the upcoming Winter
Games, members of Utah's religious faiths say the call for compassion, peace
and unity means more today than at any other time in U.S. history.
With that in mind, 70 members of 15 faiths signed a statement of solidarity
and called on Utahns on Tuesday to "move forward from this crisis to a time
of unity, justice and peace to bring compassion and healing to all people of
Some of the signatories -- which include members of the Utah Islamic
Society, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, United Methodist
Church, Utah Friends Fellowship, the Baha'i Community, Sikh Dharma of Utah
and Buddhist community -- gathered at the Khadeeja Mosque in Salt Lake
City exactly three weeks after the attacks.
The Rev. David Randle of the Utah United Religions Initiative, which
organized the gathering, urged that the community abide by the Golden Rule.
"It's so easy to fall into stereotypes. 'Islamic terrorist' has almost
become one word," Randle said. "It is not Islam that is doing this. It is
The idea for the statement, two weeks in the making, came about as Randle
and a member of the Utah Islamic Society discussed harassment and attacks
on Middle Eastern-looking residents after terrorist attacks in New York,
Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
Signers of the statement want Utah religious leaders to remind their
congregations of what their faiths say about love, peace, compassion and
Two weeks ago, a separate group of religious, civic and business leaders
called Alliance for Unity issued a similar plea, saying they were concerned
about the acceptance of diversity in Utah. That group's message, five
months in the making, was not tied to the terrorist attacks on the United
Religious leaders who participated in Tuesday's news conference said
religious and civic leaders and individual Utahns should learn about the
teachings of other faiths so they can treat their neighbors with respect
and dignity, "and that none shall fear intolerance, discrimination, or
persecution because of the tradition to which they belong."
The signers pledged to provide a "sanctuary of safe hospitality" to welcome
and serve people coming to visit Utah during the 2002 Olympics.
Finally, they call on people around the world to observe an international
Olympic truce -- a period of peace and good will -- starting a week
before the Games and ending a week after.
The truce was originally established in Greece in the ninth century B.C. to
protect athletes, artists and their families as they traveled to and from
the Games. In modern times, the first truce project was launched in 1992
following the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Next month, the International Olympic Committee will request that the United
Nations institute the Olympic truce during the 2002 Games.
As part of that, Utah's various faiths will display visible symbols of peace,
such as peace poles, and stage peace gatherings next February to promote the
The Rev. Scott Schiesswohl, senior pastor of Park City United Methodist
Church, noted that religious leaders have called for peace and understanding
before. But he said the cry is different now because the United States has
been attacked on its mainland.
"It's a time where unusual unity can be sought," he said.
The call for peace is not meant to be a political statement to denounce
possible U.S. retaliation against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in
Afghanistan, Randle said. However, many of the signatories are members of
"We need to have people brought to justice without any more killing," said
the Rev. Annie Heart, leader of the Utah United Methodist Committee on Peace
Robert Pearce, a member of the Christ United Methodist Church, said he plans
to sign the statement because "the virus of terrorism does not leave Utah
immune. Perhaps if we do 'light the fire within' and seek the loving tenants
of each of our faith traditions, perhaps we can instill immunity."
©Copyright 2001, The Salt Lake Tribune