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Utah religious leaders discuss faith, love and respect

SALT LAKE CITY — Child human trafficking, exploitation, sexual abuse of children, fraud and abuse are part of the work of an attorney general.

"As I face and my team faces some really dark forces … it underscores to us every single day the great need our nation, our state and our community has for wonderful people of faith like you," Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes told a group of about 70 religious leaders Thursday.

The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable prayer breakfast represented the official start to the 2015 Interfaith Season during the months of January, February and March.

The mission of the Interfaith Roundtable is to promote interfaith respect, dialogue and collaboration to overcome religious division with an eye to achieving world peace. Members of the Parliament of the World's Religion were also at the breakfast.

Those in attendance also recognized the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, celebrated the first week of February.

"People around the world are celebrating, many of them today, as they have an interfaith prayer breakfast," Wendy Stovall, secretary for the Interfaith Roundtable, told the group.

In joining those around the world in the Harmony Week, and celebrating the kickoff of the Interfaith Season, nine religious representatives blessed water.

"The unity of the water symbolizes the harmony and love of our faiths here together," Stovall said.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Reyes said, his faith is an important part of who he is personally and professionally.

"It gives me a lot of strength, hopefully it gives me clarity," he said. "It gives me resolve to continue to fight things like human trafficking and child exploitation. And it provides me perspective, too."

In dealing with stressful situations that may seem dire in the moment, Reyes said his faith is a light of perspective to something bigger and more eternal than one moment.

"Maybe things like family, things like friends and faith are the most important things in life," he said.

Love and respect were common themes at the breakfast.

Jan Saeed said things like the roundtable, events during the Interfaith Season and the presence of the Parliament of World Religion create a vision of the world coming together.

Andalin Bachman said the roundtable helps others find a common thread while strengthening their own beliefs.

"It helps to build a stronger community and it helps and restores all of our faiths," she said.

Bachman likened the Interfaith Roundtable and their efforts to a bowl of fruit.

"An apple, an orange. They're all different, they're all unique. But they work together in harmony making a beautiful bowl of fruit."

Reyes said the principle of love, no matter what language or prism of faith it's in, is powerful.

"(Love) can overcome political differences. It's the power that can overcome socioeconomic differences, cultural differences, and really unite us to keep us strong and keep us safe and to keep us happy living together," he said.

Reyes, whose father is Catholic and mother is LDS, grew up with a multicultural background including Buddhism, Hindu, Muslim and Hebrew influences.

"It's always important to remind ourselves that there is far more that we have in common than we have differences," Reyes said. "But even the differences that we have can be strengths if we exercise respect and try to understand each other's perspectives."

Reyes said he hopes the Interfaith Roundtable will continue to send a message to the world that Utah is open and welcoming of other faiths.

"I think it has created one of the most positive dynamics in our community to have people caring about each other and exercising and looking to find commonalities," he said.

The Rev. Elias Koucos said the Interfaith Season is a way to reach out to individual communities and the community we share as a whole.

"We can bring people together to share and learn and grow in knowledge, in faith, so we can respect and love each other," he said.