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Service a way for interfaith group to spread peace

SALT LAKE CITY — A young girl leaned over a tall table and another leaned back, both seemingly enthralled as the Rev. Elias Koucos read from "The Wizard of Oz."

"He's crying, too. Gosh. He must be sad for some reason," Koucos, rector of the Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, told Majinique, 7, and Sadie, 6, referring to a character in the book.

Earlier, Jyotika Oguz, of the Pacifica Institute, sat on the floor next to a wall reading aloud from "Hattie and the Wild Waves" to two children.

"Maybe an eagle took my mitten," Oguz read last week at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake's Lied Club, 464 S. Concord St.

Eight members and friends of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable came together for one of its nearly bimonthly service activities, which the group refers to as "Talk in Action 2.0." The group sees its role as spreading a message of peace.

Those who are part of the roundtable have become close friends since the group was commissioned in 1999 in preparation for the 2002 Olympics, according to Zeynep Kariparduc, a Pacifica Institute volunteer who arranges the service opportunities.

"We all meet together and try to understand each other, and we are all best friends," Kariparduc said.

During one of its recent meetings, the group was challenged to take the dialogue from the meeting and use what members are learning to perform "good deeds for humanity and (be) good examples for other people" who may be in conflict, Kariparduc said.

"Life is so short and beautiful. We need to do something good for people," she added.

The group invites all who are interested to participate. Members said they want to share the message that regardless of religion or background, people have more in common than they think.

"You can live, and you can create, and you can do something for humanity," Kariparduc said.

Volunteers sat and read to children who brought stacks of books over, some in English and some in Spanish.

Sitting on a couch, just beyond a pingpong table in a common area, Libby Hunter listened as Lauren, 6, read aloud from "The Jungle Book," dragging her small finger as she went along. She paused when she came to a word she didn't know.

"Acquainted," Hunter filled in, explaining the word's meaning afterward.

Volunteers brought books of their own to read and leave at the club. A few lucky children were able to take books home.

This was the case for Roni Allen, 6, who flipped through the pages of her new book, "Sense Pass King: A Story From Cameroon." Roni talked excitedly told about the book's main character who was able to outwit a king because she could "speak animal," she said.

"Thank you," she told Jean Tokuda Irwin, program manager for arts education at the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, who brought the book.

Andrew Kosorok became acquainted with the group while researching for an ongoing sculpture project. Kosorok has since stayed involved, saying he appreciate's the groups desire to serve others.

"It's a pretty good excuse for a club," he said.

Those who want to be involved in future service projects can contact Kariparduc at zeynep.g.ardic@gmail.com.