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Utah Muslims work with LDS Church to help typhoon victims

Published: Monday, June 29 2015 5:54 p.m. MDT

Bishop Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, embraces Abdul Afridi, center, a trustee from the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake. The Society's president, Aden Batar, is at right. (Jason Swensen) Bishop Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, embraces Abdul Afridi, center, a trustee from the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake. The Society's president, Aden Batar, is at right. (Jason Swensen)

A friendship based on trust and mutual respect has grown in recent years between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Utah’s Muslim community.

In the past, local Muslim leaders have participated in Latter-day Saint-sponsored interfaith gatherings and the LDS Church assisted with the construction of a mosque in West Valley City. Latter-day Saints also extended hands of fellowship to Utah Muslims in the volatile days following Sept. 11, 2001.

Congregants from both faiths have also worked together in times of need and disaster.

That partnership reached a new level Jan. 10 when the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake made a significant donation to the LDS Church Humanitarian Fund to assist victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines.

Bishop Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, accepted a donation from the Islamic Society of almost $120,000 during a ceremony at the Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City.

At left, Bishop Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, accepts humanitarian donation from Aden Batar, center, and Abdul Afridi. Mr. Batar and Mr. Afridi are officials at the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake. (Jason Swensen) At left, Bishop Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, accepts humanitarian donation from Aden Batar, center, and Abdul Afridi. Mr. Batar and Mr. Afridi are officials at the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake. (Jason Swensen)

He assured Society leaders that the generous gift would be used entirely to assist those in need following Typhoon Haiyan. On Nov. 8, 2013, the Category 5 super typhoon ravaged several Filipino islands, claiming more than 6,000 lives and causing an estimated $1.5 billion in damage.

“I’m just overwhelmed by your generosity,” he said. “We are honored to work together with you.”

Not long after the storm hit, an anonymous donor gave the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake $100,000 for Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts. The donor challenged other members of the Islamic Society to augment his gift, resulting in an additional $19,000 being raised.

Society leaders decided to turn the funds over to the LDS Humanitarian Services.

Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake President Aden Batar, far right, discusses the Society's humanitarian donation with officials from the LDS Church and the Society. (Jason Swensen) Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake President Aden Batar, far right, discusses the Society's humanitarian donation with officials from the LDS Church and the Society. (Jason Swensen)

“We knew that the money would go to help those people in need,” said Islamic Society President Aden Batar.

“With the [LDS Church’s] support, we can help many people,” added trustee Abdul Afridi.

Bishop Davies called the Islamic Center “a sacred place” where worshippers gather to pray together. He added that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches “to have a prayer in our hearts continually.”

Mr. Batar spoke of his own relationships with several Latter-day Saints, including many he considers “brothers and friends.”

At the end of the ceremony, Bishop Davies and several other representatives from LDS Humanitarian Services exchanged embraces with their friends from the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake.

“It feels so good to see people come together and work together to help those in need,” he said.

jswensen@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company