Muslims and Latter-day Saints champion religious freedom in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — At a time seemingly defined by global and religious divide, the Church continues to build traditions of interfaith dialogue and cooperation within the faith community in Guatemala.

For the third time, a Church representative participated in the Annual Convention of the Muslim Ahmadiyya Community of Guatemala. The recent event was organized by the local Muslim leaders to promote peace and solidarity in the Central American country and across the world.

Julio Alvarado, the Church’s director of public affairs for the Central America Area and a former counselor in the Central America Area Presidency, accepted the invitation to speak at the gathering.

“The [LDS] Church enjoys a friendship with this [interfaith] community and we share with them the importance of protecting religious freedom,” wrote Alvarado in an email.

Abdul Sattar Kahn, president of the Muslim Community Admadia in Guatemala, directed the convention. Other religious groups participating in the event included the Catholic Church and local evangelical congregations.

In his remarks, Alvarado said religious freedom is counted among the fundamental pillars of peace.

David Gonzalez of the Guatemalan Muslim community offered introductory remarks and challenged participants to work together to ensure peace and religious freedom. He also noted the many humanitarian projects sponsored by his community — including water projects and health and education initiatives.

At the close of the convention, participant Azhar Haneef added that religious freedom is essential to society. The freedom to believe — or to not believe — must be respected by all religious persuasions.

Alvarado wrote that the Church is recognized and respected in Guatemala for its ongoing efforts to promote religious freedom and tolerance.

“In many of our own activities, we have invited religious leaders from other denominations, and they have expressed gratitude to the Church for promoting religious freedom and strengthening the family,” he wrote. “Many here consider us to be a Church that promotes peace and brotherhood.”

Speaking at the annual Muslim convention, he added, “was an uplifting experience. 3; I hope they invite us again.”

The Church has enjoyed an influential role in the Guatemalan religious community for decades. The Central American nation is home to more than a quarter-million members, two temples (in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango) and six missions.