SALT LAKE CITY — While lawmakers on Utah's Capitol Hill debate and legalities and politics of immigration, members of various faiths prayed together over the contentious issue Thursday night.
"God cares for the stranger especially and so should our laws," said Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. "The law can be used to divide instead of unite."
The Interfaith Prayer Service for Immigrants was held at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
Pastor Corey J. Hodges of the New Pilgrim Baptist Church was one of several religious leaders in attendance. He told the congregation that government and religious leaders should consider the biblical question, "Who is my neighbor?" as they approach the immigration debate.
"I think the answer to that is, all of us belong to the same human race," Hodges said. "We all deserve love, we all deserve compassion."
Sheila McDonald said she was surrounded by many beautiful families at the prayer service who are abiding the nations laws and trying to provide for their families.
"I'm just hopeful that our nation will take action and allow people to come out from the shadows and to live among us," McDonald said.
In an interview before the service, Wester said the event was not a time to talk politics or debate the issue.
"We are going to pray in our state that we do not move in any direction that's going to cause more fear," he said. "Even the mere fact of arguing, debating these issues creates tension and creates a lot of concern in the lives of our people.”
Religious leaders also hope the service reminds everyone of common beliefs. "What we're trying to do is to get people to come back to the essence, the true core of their faiths, which is how we treat each other as human beings," said Alan Bachman, chairman of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.
He said the special service is also intended to send a message to those who may be watching deliberations in Utah.
"We want to make sure that people know that the people of Utah do love and appreciate the people who are here,” Bachman said.
A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the while the Church won't have an official representative at the vigil, the conversation surrounding immigration is important to the Church.
"We repeat our appeal for careful reflection and civil discourse when addressing immigration issues," spokesman Scott Trotter said. "Finding a successful resolution will require the best thinking and goodwill of all across the political spectrum, the highest levels of statesmanship, and the strongest desire to do what is best for all of God’s children.”