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At a time when Muslim and Christian relations are again in the world's spotlight, Utah women in the two faith traditions are beginning a friendship they hope will lead to greater understanding.

Over platters of falafel, biryani rice, hummus and baklava, the women of Salt Lake City's Wasatch Presbyterian Church and eight women from the Muslim community on Thursday traded hugs, personal stories, recipes and email addresses.

The luncheon — prepared in Muslim homes and shared at the church — was a thank-you from the Muslim women, who were delighted by Wasatch's giveaway earlier this week of free copies of the Quran, Islam's holy book.

"You," said Angela Young, a convert to Islam, "extended the first hand."

The giveaway of nearly 70 books resulted from a suggestion two weeks ago by Wasatch's new pastor, the Rev. Scott Dalgarno, that church leaders put money behind their belief that education informs faith. It also was a response to a Florida preacher's burning of the Quran in March, an act that triggered riots and dozens of deaths in Afghanistan.

Church leaders chipped in $600 and ordered copies of the Quran through The King's English Bookshop on Salt Lake City's east side. They asked the store to give them away.

The books were gone within 90 minutes of being placed on the shelf Monday morning, just hours after the world learned of the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden, whose legacy has led to suspicion, isolation and even bigotry against Muslims.

The timing was serendipitous, said Anne Holman, manager of the bookstore, who had decided last Friday to begin the giveaway Monday morning.

"People were grateful and curious about it and wanting to read it," Holman said. "It was made even more immediate by what had happened."

The store ended up handing out nearly 90 Qurans, she said, because 20 more were donated by a group called Muslims for Peace.

Young said she was "completely and totally" moved when she heard that Wasatch planned to distribute copies of her holy book.

"It's great to see someone reach out to counter something ugly," she said, referring to the Quran burning.

She mentioned an earlier Salt Lake Tribune story to her friend Maysa Kergaye, and Kergaye came up with the idea of thanking the Presbyterians for their kindness.

"You have helped to build a bridge in our community," Kergaye told the Wasatch women — as well as Dalgarno and several other men — on Thursday. "I hope we can continue this."

And Kergaye told the Presbyterian women to count the Muslim women in on service projects.

"We are not as organized, but we do show up."

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