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Pulling together

Acts of goodness overcome evil

There has been more terrible irony this week than most imagined possible, and Pastor Steve Reinhard is one of millions feeling it deeply.

The leader of Mountain Vista United Methodist Church in West Jordan stood last Saturday on his seven-acre lot and looked at his new church — going up on the corner of 9000 South and 3200 West — as the best kind of cooperative effort there is. For weeks on the site there has been "a whole (interfaith) community coming together to build something for good, to put something up, to help out." More than 100 volunteers, most of them from outside of his congregation, had arrived that day to help install a rock facing on his building.

They were big-hearted, warm-handed people eager to "do good," he said, and willing to spend their free time to prove it.

Three mornings later, thousands of people perished inside buildings destroyed by black-hearted thugs whose pay-off will be counted in body bags.

"The irony is incredible, but it gives me hope to look at a building going up for the glory of good rather than buildings coming down for the glory of evil."

It is that same triumph of the endless, small and simple acts of goodness over the daily drama of evil that people of faith everywhere are now using to cope. It began early, before the first dark night after America's longest day.

Upon hearing of Tuesday's attack, Pastor Reinhard joined millions worldwide in turning to prayer. He organized an interfaith service at dusk that drew more than 300 people to his new church property. There they stood in a pasture, lit candles, freely spoke of God and prayed — Methodists, Catholics, Latter-day Saints, "a wonderful collection of all different faiths" — to shine hundreds of lights in the darkness.

That yearning for unity has long been fostered by many, but the defenses seem to have come down more this week than before, Pastor Reinhard said.

"It seems to me there's a real sense of pulling together — people saying hello, seeming to reach out to one another in a different way. I thought the LDS churches would say they are meeting in their own wards, but they came out to our property. We've been building the church together for the last few weeks anyway, so it seemed a logical place to meet as a community."

Pastor Jerome Council of the True Vine Baptist Church in Kaysville echoed the sentiments, asking that "all Americans bind together to work for a better world." He called for "individual Americans (to) respond by being more compassionate and understanding of each other's differences and accept the fact that we have more in common than we have different."

The state's Krishna community is asking the community to join in its annual "Festival of India" at its temple in Spanish Fork, which always features drama but will be infused with added significance this year, according to organizer Caru Das.

The classic battle between Rama and Ravana, which is re-enacted annually at the festival, "was a struggle between good and the kind of aggressive evil which caused such terror and destruction. As described thousands of years ago in the epic Ramayana, Ravana stole others wives, murdered the innocent and threatened the pillars of genteel society."

In the last scene of the pageant, spectators assist Rama in destroying the 20-foot-high effigy of the evil Ravana. "We try to not only eliminate the external Ravana but to banish whatever there is of Ravana in our own hearts," he said.

Organizers announced Friday that all proceeds from the event will go to the New York Firefighters Fund to aid families of firefighters killed during rescue efforts at the World Trade Center.

The same sentiment was expressed by more than 100 American religious leaders of all major faith groups, who released a comprehensive statement Friday on terrorism that suggests "a resolute response guided by the wisdom of religious faith."

"Let us deny them (the terrorists) their victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image. We must not allow this terror to drive us away from being the people God has called us to be."

Terming the aftermath of the attacks a "test of national character," the statement calls for citizens to rededicate themselves to the vision of "community, tolerance, compassion, justice and the sacredness of human life, which lies at the heart of all our religious traditions."

Several evangelical Christian leaders will sponsor a national prayer vigil today from 4 to 5:30 p.m. More than 115,000 parishioners are expected to be linked by satellite in some 1,000 churches nationwide to participate in the prayer vigil called AMERICA PRAYS.

"Prayer of Jabez" author Bruce Wilkinson will lead the prayer time, along with Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, author Max Lucado and John Maxwell, founder of Atlanta-based INJOY. For an updated list of churches and speakers or to register to receive the downlink, see the America Prays Web site www.INJOY.com/AmericaPrays.

E-MAIL: carrie@desnews.com