Colorado faith leaders celebrate Religious Freedom Day at state Capitol

· Apr. 21, 2022, 6:55 pm
Imam Shafi Abdul Aziz, of the Islamic Outreach Center of Colorado, offers an opening prayer for an event marking Colorado Religious Freedom Day at the State Capitol in Denver on Thursday, April 21, 2022.

Colorado religious leaders came together at the state Capitol Thursday to help heal what they described as political division and economic turmoil stemming, in part, from a deadly pandemic and divisive times.  

“Even when we disagree, I think there is value in practicing inclusion and practicing respect for another person's dignity and humanity and to sit in our discomfort across our differences,” said Rabbi Caryn Aviv, who spoke at the event. “That is a hallmark, I think, of democracy.”

“It can generate a lot of respect and dignity across differences,” she added. “That is a basic human value, that we can all come together around.” 

The gathering came during a convergence of holy time in many faith traditions like Ramadan, Passover, Vaisakhi and Easter.

Rabbi Caryn Aviv, Rabbinic and Program Director at Judaism Your Way, speaks on Thursday, April 21, 2022, at Colorado Religious Freedom Day at the State Capitol in Denver.

Aviv was joined by Jeff Hunt with the Colorado Christian University, Imam Shafi Abdul Aziz with the Islamic Outreach Center of Colorado and Dilpreet Jammu with Colorado Sikhs, among other speakers. 

Several religious leaders discussed the ways they found inspiration in their own faith traditions as well as others — particularly by how other spiritual communities provide service to people in times of need, like the pandemic.

“What was amazing is how much commonality there is between our tradition,” said Jammu, a leader in the state’s Sikh community. “I think events like this one and others celebrate that and point that out … We're really not that different in terms of our values. We want fairness, we want justice, we want truth.”

Gov. Jared Polis declared April 21 Religious Freedom Day Thursday. He shared how his own family came to the United States to practice their faith without consequences.

Dilpreet Jasmmu of Colorado Sikhs, offers a closing prayer on Thursday, April 21, 2022, at Colorado Religious Freedom Day at the State Capitol in Denver.

“One of the great things about the state of Colorado is our diverse perspectives,” Polis said. “It’s a principle that our country was founded upon.”

Polis said the work faith leaders did during the pandemic is what helped many Coloradans get through difficult times.

But for Jammu, he said healing in his tradition is so much more than a quick fix. It’s a constant process.

“We get too stuck on the word healing itself and trying to make sense of it in the context of stub my toe, but that's not really what it is,” he said. “Your body is continually working to keep you functioning. And a part of that function is your spiritual well being.”

Aviv agreed, adding that Judaism has a parallel healing process.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis greets faith leaders on Thursday, April 21, 2022, during Colorado Religious Freedom Day at the State Capitol in Denver.

Despite lawmakers like Polis commending religious leaders for making a positive impact in their communities, Jammu and Aviv were critical of the role politicians play in bringing people together.

Although neither named specifics, both said some elected officials use their words carefully while others cross the line of “malicious speech” to gain power.

“It debases our civic discourse and it creates more division in our society. It's super polarizing,” Aviv said. “I think people are exhausted by that.”

She hopes democracy turns a corner and that people practice more kind, loving speech — something that’s central not just in Judaism but most religious groups.

Speakers at Colorado Religious Freedom Day at the State Capitol in Denver.

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