This is not about tolerance, this is about love. As we enjoy this view of the religion and culture of people of other faiths, we are not just learning to tolerate them — we are learning to love them. —Alan Scott Bachman
SALT LAKE CITY — The two prayers that bookended the Interfaith Musical Tribute at the Salt Lake LDS Tabernacle on Temple Square seemed to sum up the spirit of harmony, peace and love that permeated the historic building for nearly two hours on Sunday evening.
"May they see each other as one family," said Baha'i representative Jan Saeed in her invocation, speaking for the more than 1,000 people from throughout Utah's faith community who were in attendance at the culminating event for the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable's annual Interfaith Month. "May they live together in perfect harmony."
Nearly 100 minutes later, JB Singh of the Sikh Temple of Utah offered a benediction on the event that asked that Utah's people of faith "love and respect one another," particularly that those present would "appreciate other religions as we do our own."
In between the two prayers was a stunning display of religious diversity and aesthetic accomplishment as performers representing the broad spectrum of Utah's faith community shared elements of their religious and cultural heritage in music, dance and devotional expression.
Hosted by Ninevah Dinha of Fox-13 News, who spoke movingly of her parents' escape from Iraq because of religious persecution, the Interfaith Musical Tribute began with three opening devotionals — a Jewish prayer by Alan Scott Bachman, with Larry Green on shofar; a Muslim call to prayer by Masood Ul-hasan; and a Christian worship song, "Osanna Excelsis," performed by the Salt Lake Children's Choir. Dinha asked the Tabernacle audience to withhold their applause for this portion of the program because, she said, "we are entering sacred space."
The entertainment portion of the program got off to a rousing start with the Salt Lake Scots, who filled the huge hall with the sound of bagpipes and drums playing "Highland Cathedral," "Amazing Grace" and "Scotland the Brave."
A significant portion of the program was devoted to performances by young people, who used their talent to celebrate their faith and culture. In addition to the Salt Lake Children's Choir, those groups included a children's choir from the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple and the Indian Cultural Center of Utah, the St. John the Baptist Middle School Catholic Choir, a dance group from the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple Dharma School and a team of whirling dervish dancers from the Pacifica Institute.
One of the highlights of the Musical Tribute was a performance by Gamelan Bingtang Wahyu, a unique gamelan orchestra organized among faculty and students at BYU by Jeremy Grimshaw. The performance featured guest director Made Lasmawan and guest dancer Putu Tang-kas Adi Mayena in music and dance that is reflective of Balinese Hindu culture.
"This is not about tolerance," said Bachman, SLIR chair and a representative of Chabad of Utah, in bringing the tribute to a close. "This is about love. As we enjoy this view of the religion and culture of people of other faiths, we are not just learning to tolerate them — we are learning to love them."
That feeling seemed to be shared by those who shared the experience on Temple Square Sunday night. At the conclusion of the program, the congregation joined the combined Salt Lake and St. John the Baptist choirs in singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth," filling the Tabernacle with a musical reminder of the message of the two prayers offered at the beginning and end of the interfaith program: "With God our Creator, family all are we; Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony."