HomeLatest NewsChurch officer & interfaith leaders build bridges of religious harmony

Church officer & interfaith leaders build bridges of religious harmony

JAKARTA: Two global faith leaders – Andrea Muñoz Spannaus, second counselor of the Young Women General Presidency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Prof. Dr. KH. Nasaruddin Umar – convened at the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia to discuss and promote interreligious understanding.

Dr. Umar, the Grand Imam of the mosque, emphasized the universality of humanity, stating, “Humanity is only one; there is no color…We are very active meeting together with our neighbors, not only from Catholic and Protestant, but also from the Hindus and also Buddhists… We invite them to come here. For me, this mosque not only for Muslim people. Everybody can access Istiqlal Mosque, because this is the big host for peace and the big host for humanity.”

The friendship between the Grand Imam and the Church dates back to Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s visit to Jakarta in October 2022. Subsequently, he participated as the keynote speaker in the 30th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium at Brigham Young University.

Both the Grand Imam and Sister Spannaus are strong advocates for interfaith harmony. During her visit to the mosque, he guided her to the Tunnel of Tolerance, which is a 28.3-meter-long underground passage linking the Istiqlal Mosque – the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia – and St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Jakarta. This tunnel symbolizes the friendship and unity shared among the communities in Indonesia.

“I think that tolerance is so important right now and we can find love for the people,” Sister Spannaus said. “We can love each other, we can have this tolerance and we can work together in the things that matter most for us – the unity of the family, humanitarian projects, things that will make a better society to help people.”

Sister Spannaus also had the honor of meeting with Ella Nuryamah, the general secretary, and other female leaders from Fatayat, the young women organization within Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) which is the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia with over a hundred million members worldwide. They discussed the need to collaborate on humanitarian and other projects to bless the lives of women, children and family.

“We realized that we have a lot of things in common between the two of us, and the important thing is that we love the people, and we want to help,” she said.

In addition to visiting with interfaith leaders, Sister Spannaus ministered to members and missionaries of the Church in Lahore, Pakistan; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. She was accompanied by her husband, Alin, and the Asia Area Presidency and wives in this 10-day journey.

Embracing the rich tapestry of local cultures and the warmth of the people she encountered in these unfamiliar yet welcoming lands, Sister Spannaus extended her ministry to Church members and missionaries through devotionals, focus groups and Face to Face meetings, creating a strong spiritual connection.

While the Church is steadily growing in these countries, in-person visits from general officers like Sister Spannaus are not a regular occurrence, making her presence a cherished and enriching occasion for Church members and missionaries seeking for guidance and inspiration. Many traveled up to eight hours each way to bask in her teachings.

“Members of the Church here are the pioneers… They are full of devotion, effort and love for the Lord. It was wonderful for me to see these qualities in them,” Sister Spannaus expressed.

Abeera Arif Khokhar, a young single adult from Lahore, said the messages shared by Sister Spannaus greatly connected to her spiritually.

“It motivated me to reflect on my faith and to deepen my understanding of the gospel and for doing that, I plan on reading my scriptures more diligently,” she continued.

Savithna Senanayake, a prospective missionary from the Colombo branch felt the excitement and beauty of serving a mission as Sister Spannaus spoke at the devotional.

“I want to be an obedient missionary, losing myself in the work, putting my trust in the Savior and always relying on him,” she said. “I know that if I put my focus on God, serving him with all my heart I’ll never be lost but be blessed in my life.”

In her recent visit to Asia, Sister Andrea Muñoz Spannaus of the Young Women General Presidency ministered to Church members and leaders at devotionals, focus groups and Face to Face events.

Sister Spannaus said that at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, she and other leaders have on-going discussions about supporting and guiding the next generations. While these strategic planning lay the groundwork for improving Church programs, she said it is the immersive experience of engaging directly with the diverse global congregations, such as this ministry visit, that offers invaluable insights of the local members’ needs and strengths, shaping more effective initiatives for the future.

To conclude her ministering, Sister Spannaus gave her audience three key takeaways:

“One is the sacrament, the importance of going to Church every Sunday and to renew the covenants.

“Then I would love them to know that it’s worth it to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, that we can improve, and we can change our hearts and transform our lives by being a disciple of Jesus Christ little by little. Everything that we can do is worth it.

“Number three is that God will fight our battles. He will help us always. He’s here with us.”

Courtesy: Churchofjesuschrist.org.

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