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Colorado Springs interfaith prayer breakfast called a gathering for hope after election

January 20, 2017 Updated: January 20, 2017 at 7:36 pm
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Dennis Apuan, right, joins hands with others as they sing "We Shall Overcome" Friday, January 20 during an interfaith inauguration day prayer breakfast at Vista Grande Community Church. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

About three hours before President Donald Trump gave his inaugural address before hundreds of thousands of people Friday in Washington, D.C., about 30 people from different faiths met in central Colorado Springs for what they described as a gathering of hope amid the presidential transition.

Leaders from the Pikes Peak area's Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and Unitarian Universalist communities prayed, sang and meditated together, trying to turn the negative mood that pervaded the campaign leading up to Trump's succeeding former president Barack Obama into a united front to help the nation move forward. The Rev. Clare Twomey, pastor of the Vista Grande Community Church United Church of Christ where the event was held at Friday morning, called the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast "such a necessary and a sacred time together."

"We have to collectively lift up our prayers for wisdom and guidance," said Dennis Apuan, the chairman of the Colorado Springs Council for Justice, which organized Friday's gathering.

Apuan, Twomey and four other speakers shared Scripture, mantras, and folk tales before each prayed or led the interfaith group in meditation.

Practicing Buddhist Sister Ayya Dhammadhira joins others in putting their hands on their hearts Friday, January 20 during an interfaith inauguration day prayer breakfast at Vista Grande Community Church. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Ayya Dhammadhira, a Buddhist, focused on the Metta Sutta, a Buddhist discourse of loving kindness before leading a meditation "wishing all beings well."

"It's not the words that matter so much," Dhammadhira said. "It's the attitude of the heart."

Trent Keipour, an Air Force staff sergeant who was at the prayer breakfast, sipped on his coffee and said the interfaith aspect was what drew him as a Muslim to the event, "That's kind of unheard of in Colorado Springs," he said.

Keipour said he "didn't really support" either Trump or Hillary Clinton leading up to the Nov. 8, 2016 election. But he has hope that President Trump will back off on some of his campaign rhetoric and do what is good for the American people. But, like the faith leaders who spoke at Vista Grande church, Keipour said it will take all of us to make sure that happens.

"We have no choice," he said. "We have to come together and work instead of focusing on the division that has been created."

Arshad Yousufi, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Colorado Springs, said that he "expects (Trump) to continue to be who he is."

Yousufi said radical groups like the Islamic State do not represent Islam. The Islamic Society representative added that his organization fears that many people in the United States will lump all Muslims in with radical, violent groups like ISIS because of campaign rhetoric that many view as anti-Muslim.

"Some of the people who have always been prejudiced have been energized," he said before asking the room to "speak out for us."

"It does take courage to speak out," Yousufi said.

The Rev. Dana Lightsey of the High Plains Unitarian Universalist Church and Carla Vogel, who represented the Jewish community, also spoke at the event. They and the other faith leaders ended the prayer breakfast reading a benediction together.

Just before the benediction, Twomey said she had been asked if Friday's prayer meeting was a protest. But the pastor simply called the event a gathering for hope.

"Protests or gatherings are only as effective as the change they elicit," Twomey said.

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