SALT LAKE CITY — Young people are the future of any faith community, and it is up to faith leaders to reach out and to work together to engage millennials and other generations, Bishop Oscar A. Solis told local faith leaders Oct. 2 at the monthly meeting of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.
The bishop encouraged each faith group to reach out to young people to invite them in. He acknowledged that many faith communities are losing their young people.
“We are all experiencing one relevant issue, that of the ‘nones’ – they are called the ‘nones’ because they have no affiliation to any structure, organized faith group and churches,” he said. “We are losing touch and connection with the younger generation. … It is our struggle to bring back the younger generation into the church.”
Bishop Solis said that he did not have all the answers but had faith that, as the leaders worked together, they could address the problem.
The bishop shared these thoughts after he spoke of the importance of faith groups working together for the common good.
“It is our responsibility to mold the minds and the hearts of all people so we can establish one kingdom of God in our midst,” he said.
In a world where disharmony and conflict are the norm, especially in politics, the responsibility of faith leaders is great, he said.
“One of reasons religion exists [is] to be instruments of unity and harmony in a fragmented society in the divided world we live in,” Bishop Solis said. “We are living in a very polarized society these days. … Instead of building bridges, we have built walls.”
“It is time for us to bring the shoeshine box and shine the hearts and souls of every living person that we need in order to bring out the luster of God’s love in every person,” he said.
The bishop, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, said building community among different cultures, especially with immigrant communities is an important component of his work there as it is for the Interfaith Roundtable.
His words seemed to resonate with those who attended the luncheon.
Zeynes Kariparduc of the Emerald Hills Institute said engaging youth is a challenge for all faith communities.
“We have the same concerns as the bishop: how to involve young adults and encourage them to be more active in our society,” she said. “They are our future; we need to show them the beauty of being together as an interfaith community.”
“He is a breath of fresh air,” Indra Neelameggham, a representative of the Hindu community and Interfaith Roundtable treasurer, said of Bishop Solis. “He not only brings a different culture, he is younger and listens to young people.”
Neelameggham reiterated the bishop’s view that the Interfaith Roundtable serves a valuable function in the Salt Lake City area.
“In Salt Lake and Utah we have every faith tradition,” she said. “The Interfaith Roundtable brings in people from all traditions, not just the Christian traditions but also Muslims, Hindus, Jain, Sikhs, Buddhists and others.”
The Interfaith Roundtable was formed in 1999 by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games to fulfill the Olympic Charter requirement to provide religious support for athletes and families. When the Games concluded, members of the Interfaith Roundtable expressed a desire to continue the dialogue that had been established among Utah faith communities.
The group has continued to meet monthly from September through May and to collaborate on mutual interfaith goals ever since. The October monthly luncheon was hosted by the Diocese of Salt Lake City at the Pastoral Center.