Senator Gene Davis met with a group of visitors from Africa last Monday at the Capitol. Among the African countries represented were Chad, Mali, Kenya, Senegal, Niger, Madagascar, Sudan, Namibia, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. The group, sponsored by the United States Department of State and locally by the Utah Council on Citizen Diplomacy, participated in a regional project for Africa entitled “Religious Freedom and Interfaith Dialogue.”
The question/answer format included discussion about what it means to have a minority party, the role of the minority party, state representation versus federal representation, and religious freedom. Senator Davis mentioned to the group that we begin our legislative sessions each day with a prayer given by either a member of the body or an invited ecclesiastical leader. Some in the group were puzzled by the conglomerate of multi-denominational prayers. Senator Davis simply replied to the group that the senators’ open hearts allow them to be be guided by every prayer offered. Senator Davis said, “Respect for a person’s religion demonstrates respect for the individual.”
Several interpreters accompanied the group to translate for Senator Davis and many of the participants. Languages spoken in the group were English and French.
Offices of the Utah Council on Citizen Diplomacy are located at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Westminster’s president, Michael Bassis says:
“Considering all that the organization (Utah Council on Citizen Diplomacy) does to promote global respect and understanding between the people of Utah and other nations, we are honored to offer them office space on our campus and access to our wonderful facilities. But the enormous value they bring to our campus is what drives our enthusiasm for this partnership. This value comes through our joint sponsorship of public lectures on topics of transnational importance and, perhaps most importantly, it comes from the opportunities UCCD creates for our students, faculty and staff to interact with delegations of emerging leaders from countries across the globe that visit Salt Lake each year through UCCD’s International Visitor Leadership Program.”