G20 Interfaith Forum is all about connections and solving world problems, religious leaders say

BOLOGNA, Italy — At a 775-year-old Italian palace and neighboring historic hotel here over the weekend, a Latter-day Saint apostle met with Catholicism’s Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad, Islam’s Grand Mufti of the Caucasus and Sudan’s minister of religious affairs, who took office after a revolution.

Remarkable connections illustrate the growing impact of the annual G20 Interfaith Forum, which began Sunday with a message from Pope Francis and ringing speeches by Slovenia’s president, Sri Lanka’s prime minister and the president of the World Jewish Congress, among others.

It is among the reasons for four consecutive years, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, has sent an apostle to speak and participate in the Interfaith Forum, which champions partnerships between religion and government and seeks to influence the annual Group of 20 meeting by showing the strength global religious leaders bring to solving society’s biggest problems. This year’s G20 Heads of State and Government Summit is scheduled for the end of October in Rome.

“This is the first time in my 21 years of serving as a general authority that my entire focus for 11 days is on government relations and interfaith relations,” said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Sunday’s speakers immediately focused on this year’s theme for the forum, “Time to heal: Peace among cultures, understanding between religions,” noting that it also referred to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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