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'Be open to ideas, beliefs of others,' chairman of interfaith group urges Utahns at state Capitol

FILE — Father Elias Koucos, chairman of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, introduces Rev. Canon Andrew White to an audience at Saint Marks Episcopal Cathedral in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 22, 2015.
FILE — Father Elias Koucos, chairman of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, introduces Rev. Canon Andrew White to an audience at Saint Marks Episcopal Cathedral in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 22, 2015.
Chris Samuels, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The chairman of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable urged Utahns Friday to be “open to the ideas and beliefs of others, respectful of our differences and not threatened by them” during an observance Friday at the state Capitol to kick off Interfaith Month in Utah.

Father Elias Koucos, assistant priest at Holy Trinity Cathedral and Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, was joined by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, community advocate Pamela Atkinson and Lacee Harris of the Northern Ute and Paiute tribes, who offered a Native American blessing upon Interfaith Month activities.

“We are grateful for this opportunity today to meet in our state Capitol, a symbol of democracy, justice, peace and harmony, to recognize and celebrate Interfaith Month for this year, 2016,” said Father Koucos, chairman of the interfaith group.

Herbert said it was fitting to conduct the observance at the Capitol because Utah was founded by people seeking freedom from religious persecution, noting the nation was created by people who also believed they should be able to worship as they saw fit.

“It’s a great concept of freedom and liberty we have in this country,” the governor said.

Herbert said he is proud to be “a man of faith. I am. I believe there is something beyond this mortal existence. I believe in a creator. I believe in God. I believe in a Heavenly Father.”

The governor said he strongly believes in the brotherhood of man.

“We’re all brothers and sisters in a real sense. If we all believed that, we’d treat each other a lot better, not just here but around the world,” he said.

Atkinson, who introduced Herbert, said she cherishes Utah’s religious diversity of her many friends.

“I know we can be friends and never let issues interfere with our friendship,” she said.

Harris, prior to offering a blessing over the month’s events, noted the role of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable in creating dialogue and bringing together people of various faiths.

The Roundtable, formed in advance of the 2002 Winter Games to help tend to the religious needs of athletes and other attached to the Games, has endured and expanded significantly in the succeeding years, Father Koucos said in a previous interview.

“We are all children of one creator. Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable brings us together as one spiritual family. It’s a beautiful thing,” Harris said.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com