Conference brings interfaith leaders to Salt Lake City

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SALT LAKE CITY -- More than 90 interfaith representatives from throughout the country and Canada are meeting in Salt Lake City this week.

During Monday morning's conference session the participants said their message of understanding is needed more than ever.

The members of the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) say they recognize that with more interfaith groups throughout the country, more people want to know about different religious beliefs. But with more blogs and talk shows, fear and misunderstanding have increased.

What is the North American Interfaith Network?
NAIN was envisioned by a group of leaders from existing interfaith organizations in the US and Canada from 1985 to 1987. In 1988, a North American Assisi, hosted by one of the oldest interfaith councils in the US, Interfaith Ministries of Wichita, Kansas, came together as the birth of NAIN and the first NAIN conference.

Noor Ul Hasan greeted the nearly 100 conference attendees. NAIN members say they want to help people transcend the label of "religion" and work on communication.

Mohammed Fani from Mt. Vernon, Wash., represents Camp Brotherhood, an organization founded by a rabbi and a priest that promotes interfaith, racial and ethnic harmony. He believes many have become better educated about his faith through this kind of networking.

"You see that people are becoming more and more familiar with the message of Islam and, really, what it has to offer to American society and, in the greater scheme of things, to humanity," Fani said. "So there is tremendous use for these kinds of conferences."

Doug Johnston delivered the keynote address Monday. His International Center for Religion and Diplomacy tries to build bridges in the Middle East.

As Bettina Gray, chair of the North American Interfaith Network, said, "We don't have to have one religion, but we do live together in the world. And we have either the responsibility to build some kind of bridge with the people we live with or else live in antagonism and fear."

Ultimately, this group comes together every year to inspire new programs and find out where there are needs.

"If people just had a way to talk to each other in a really genuine, authentic way... so much misunderstanding would be dispelled, and that's one of the things that interfaith work and interfaith groups make happen," said Karen Boyett of the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada.

NAIN is promoting a documentary called "Asian and Abrahamic Religions: A Divine Encounter in America" that will air on PBS this fall.


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