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Faiths use music to forge unity of spirit

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Drums thundered, bells chimed, choirs sang and clergy prayed during what many believe was the most diverse collection of spiritual groups and musicians to ever come together under one roof in Utah.

Gathered Sunday night at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the richness of the state's religious community was on display for invited guests during an Interfaith Musical Tribute to the Human Spirit. Organized by the Interfaith Roundtable of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, the two- hour concert was the signature event for a group of 45 religious leaders representing 22 different faith communities.

The group has been working under the auspices of SLOC for at least two years, with dialogue fostered among American Indians, Baha'is, Unitarians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Protestants and Latter-day Saints. As a kickoff event to the Olympic Games, it brought community leaders together with Olympic volunteers and hundreds of performers and religious leaders to pray, chant, sing and worship together.

SLOC President Mitt Romney said such a display of unity is the essence of the Olympic Games.

As the Games fostered the birth of the Interfaith Roundtable, a forward-looking group of religious leaders committed to fostering unity in Utah, they also inspire people across the world to look forward to a future of hope, Romney said. "If this can heal our community and bring us together, it will all have been worth it."

"As we see peoples of diverse nations come together it raises our hopes for peace," said Jan Saeed, chairwoman for the Interfaith Roundtable.

The service began with the quiet chanting of Ute blessing, and included a welcome by Bishop George Niederauer of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake. Music by the Madeleine Choir School, the Orchestra at Temple Square, the Utah Valley Mass Choir, the Raijin Taiko Drummers, the Tongan Singers of Utah, St. Paul's Episcopal Church Choir, and the Wesley Bell Ringers was interspersed with blessings and messages of faith from a wide spectrum of religious leaders.

Speakers included the Rev. Jerry Hirano of Utah's Buddhist community; Rabbi Frederick Wenger; Roger Keller, a former protestant minister who now teaches religion at LDS-owned Brigham Young University; Arati Sinah, a Hindu; Masood Ul-Hasan of the local Muslim community; and the Rev. Sylvia Behrend of First Unitarian Church.

E-MAIL: carrie@desnews.com