Local religious leaders celebrate a year of interfaith achievements

In News by 1 Billion Rising Lower Mainland Initiative



Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News

Sim Gill, district attorney for Salt Lake County, speaks at the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable Prayer Breakfast.
SALT LAKE CITY β€” Sim Gill brings a unique perspective to discussions on peace and justice. He’s been a prosecutor for more than two decades and serves as district attorney for Salt Lake County.

But at the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, he didn’t dwell on a legal approach to fairness and forgiveness. He wanted to talk about faith.

“I’m lucky and blessed to have experienced a diversity of human beliefs,” he said to a room filled with around 50 representatives of Salt Lake faith groups.

Gill was born in India to a Sikh family. There, he also worshipped at Hindu temples and Muslim mosques.

After moving to Utah, Gill regularly attended events hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He eventually married a member of the Maronite Catholic Church.

These days, Gill finds room in his schedule for Sikh, Hindu, Catholic and Islamic services, and he studies the Jewish and Buddhist traditions on the side.

“My disposition is either one of immense indecisiveness or maybe deep inquisitiveness,” he said.

Thursday’s breakfast served as an informal kickoff for Interfaith Month 2018, a series of programs designed to celebrate Utah’s faith communities. This year’s events are linked together by the theme of service to others, which Gill said is needed now more than ever.

“What we really need is active engagement,” he said.


Interfaith Month 2018 formally begins this Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Salt Lake Main Library. Roundtable members will lead a discussion on the relationship between the LDS Church and Islam.

During his remarks at the breakfast, Gill emphasized the importance of spirituality and religion at the present moment, which he said is marked by deep cynicism and distrust. He celebrated interfaith activism and discussed the importance of loving one’s neighbor.

“The need for human understanding, compassion and kindness has never been more urgent,” he said.

Gill spoke for nearly 30 minutes, his words peppered by gasps and murmurs of affirmation from the audience.

“I never thought I would be so inspired by a district attorney,” said Janet Healy, community and volunteer director for Catholic Community Services of Utah.

The interfaith roundtable’s prayer breakfast was timed to coincide with World Interfaith Harmony Week, an annual event established by the United Nations to recognize the value of interreligious dialogue. The program included readings from the holy scriptures of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

3comments on this storyJosie Stone, the group’s chairwoman, also handed out the roundtable’s annual awards, recognizing people who went above and beyond to nurture interfaith friendships.

Ellie Anders Thompson, the interreligious engagement coordinator at Utah Valley University, was praised for her service to the roundtable’s young adult members. Betty Yanowitz and Sue Prottas, both members of Congregation Kol Ami, were applauded for joyfully and diligently bringing a Jewish perspective to the group. Finally, Lacee Harris, a founding member of the roundtable, received an award for his longtime service to the Salt Lake community.