Joining the throngs of visitors to Temple Square were leaders of Muslim and Catholic faiths from Southern California on July 15-17. They were escorted by Steve and Judy Gilliland of the Church's Los Angeles Public Affairs Council and hosted by Church public affairs in Salt Lake City.
Overall impressions of their visit included a general admiration for the Church's humanitarian services and the commitment of its members.
Brother and Sister Gilliland said the trip was planned to coincide with the open house of the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple so the visitors, after touring it, could have a deeper understanding of why members of the Church are so committed to faith, families and serving others.
"It gave them a better understanding of 'why,' " Sister Gilliland said. She added, "We have great respect for the interfaith leaders [in Southern California]."
The two-day tour also included visits to BYU, Welfare Square and the LDS Humanitarian Center.
The visitors all said they enjoyed their time in Utah and were grateful for the kindness and hospitality of those they met.
"It has certainly been a very exciting and inspiring two days," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "I will certainly go back to our Muslim community in the Los Angeles area and share the success story and achievement that I've noticed here." He said he hopes that will solidify a partnership for good between the members of the two religions.
Of the commitment and faith he noticed, he said, "It reminds us that there are bigger things in life than our own selves, and that is to serve God. And we serve God by serving mankind. I certainly saw that in practice with every person we met here."
Kalim Farooki, treasurer of the Shura Council of Southern California and chairman of the Islamic Society of Corona/Norco, said what he observed at Welfare Square and the LDS Humanitarian Center "shows the result of teamwork, commitment and organization."
The commitment of volunteers also impressed him. He said, "When I went to the [Oquirrh Mountain] temple, I noticed there were hundreds of volunteers. All knew what they were doing and had smiling faces."
At the end of her visit, Hedab El Tarifi, vice chairwoman of the Muslim Public Affairs Council National Board of Directors and executive secretary of the Board of the Islamic Center of Southern California, said, "Now I can actually answer questions if I hear certain comments about the Mormons." She said it would give her greater ability to defend the Church from attacks as she would hope its members would similarly defend her faith from attacks.
"I certainly appreciated the visit to the temple," she said. "Not just the beautiful building itself, but understanding the spiritual activities and practices that the [members] do in the temple. To me, that was new knowledge."
Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, spoke of the commitment of Church members in serving others. He said that welfare systems should be run as the Church runs its, "not in a patronizing way, but in the spirit of serving people in humility and with grace."
The Catholic visitors arrived a day after the Muslim group, but followed the same basic itinerary...