News Release

Church Hosts Interfaith Symposium in Chicago

Nearly 100 faith leaders discuss how religion is evolving in America

Chicago, Illinois, has a rich tradition of religious diversity, which was on display at an interfaith symposium hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on September 12, 2023. Nearly 100 faith leaders from more than a dozen religions and cultures gathered at a Church meetinghouse in downtown Chicago to discuss the symposium’s theme: “The Evolving World of Religion in Modern America.”

Randall K. Blakey, executive pastor of the LaSalle Street Church, opened the program with prayer and a thoughtful meditation called “I Need You.” He asked God for His sense of time, order and the future to handle the challenges of life.

The symposium featured nationally recognized experts in religion and law as keynote speakers, and its panelists offered perspectives informed by their wide-ranging religious experiences.

Among the many who spoke were Stephanie Barclay, a Latter-day Saint who directs Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative; Steven Collis, director of the Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center and Law and Religion Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin; Amrith Aakre (Sikh); Sharan Kaur Singh (Sikh); Azam Nizamuddin (Muslim); Abdul Malik Ryan (Muslim); Frederick Reeves (Jewish); Peter Huff (Catholic); Bryon Brazier (Apostolic Church); and Dave Daubert (Lutheran).

Elder Corbin E. Coombs, an Area Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ in Chicago, closed the program with words from Cardinal Blase J. Cupich’s article “Religion, rudder of America’s democracy” and from President Russell M. Nelson’s April 2023 general conference message, "Peacemakers Needed." Elder Coombs also quoted the eleventh and twelfth articles of faith as expressions of the Church’s commitment to interfaith work and protecting the rights of all God’s children.

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may,” the articles say. “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

The program concluded with a benediction offered by Shayda Safapour of the Bahá'í faith.

“O God!” Safapour prayed. “Let this food be Thy manna from heaven, and grant that this assemblage may be a concourse of Thy supreme ones. May they be the quickening cause of love to humanity and the source of illumination to the human race. May they be the instruments of Thy guidance upon earth.” (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 419, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá).

Attendees expressed appreciation for the symposium.

“Sometimes at interreligious gatherings, it’s the persons of wisdom, deep conviction and action that I meet who make the deepest impression long after I may have forgotten the spoken contents of the presentations,” said Robert Cathey of the McCormick Theological Seminary.

Peter Huff, director of the Center for Benedictine Values at Benedictine University, was grateful for the warmth of the gathering.

“Hospitality is one of our cherished Benedictine values, and Tuesday’s event demonstrated an extraordinary outpouring of genuine and generous hospitality,” he said. “The day was truly blessed.”

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