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Representatives of Utah's Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths have joined in calling on all community members to unite in addressing homelessness issues with compassion and civility.
In a news release Thursday, the nine leaders noted that the "depth and strength of a community's character" may best be measured by "how it treats its most vulnerable citizens."
"As a group representing many faiths," the release said, "we implore all to seek a deeper understanding of the many paths that lead to homelessness and to join our common efforts to assist our homeless brothers and sisters in meeting their needs for housing and other services that will help them achieve economic independence and a life of dignity."
The joint statement from the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable comes a week after Utah's predominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued a news release with similar sentiments, stating that "our response to those in need defines us as individuals and communities."
The remarks from faith leaders are especially timely as government, civic, business and activist groups implement plans to diffuse the homeless population in Salt Lake City's Rio Grande area by erecting three resource centers elsewhere in the city and Salt Lake County.
The continuing policy debate has divided reluctant neighborhoods and prompted heated town hall meetings, complete with jeers for government officials and even boos aimed at a homeless man.
The roundtable members noted that all religions have a version of what is commonly called the "golden rule" and pointed to these examples:
Jesus Christ • "Do to others as you would have them do to you."
The Talmud • "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor."
Muhammad • "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself."
Confucius • "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself."
"We ask all to move forward with the golden rule etched in our hearts," the statement concluded, "demonstrating goodwill toward all men and women."
It was signed by Pamela Atkinson, a noted community leader on homelessness issues and a Presbyterian elder; LDS Church Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé; the Rev. France Davis, longtime pastor of Calvary Baptist Church; the Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah; Father Elias Koucos, of the Holy Trinity Cathedral and Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox churches; Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman, of Congregation Kol Ami; Imam Muhammed S. Mehtar, of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake; the Rev. Oscar A. Solis, recently installed bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City; and Josie Stone, the roundtable's chairwoman.
Editor David Noyce contributed to this story.