Refugees, immigrants honor Aurora theater shooting victims

Change is really the only constant in the neighborhood, Cleland said. “That’s what makes Original Aurora so unique.”

By BRANDON JOHANSSON, Staff Writer

AURORA | About 100 people from Aurora’s immigrant and refugee communities gathered Saturday to remember the victims of last month’s theater shootings.

The event, which organizers from Aurora Mental Health called a “Peace Celebration,” was a chance for that segment of the population to come together and honor the shooting victims, something they didn’t get to do in the days immediately after the shootings. Details about the formal vigil two days after the shooting didn’t reach much of the immigrant population until after it was over.

Vigil

Haine Say Moo, 10, (front left) and Blunay Si, 9, ( front right) anxiously wait to realease their balloons Saturday afternoon, Aug. 18 outside the Moorhead Rec Center. About 100 people from Aurora’s immigrant and refugee communities gathered to remember the victims of last month’s theater shootings. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Each of the myriad groups that call north Aurora home did something to honor the victims Saturday — the Latino community lit dozens of candles, the Bhutanese community led a Sanskrit chant, a Karen choir sang a song and Buddhist leader said a prayer.

The event also saw the unveiling of a mural community members spent the past two years painting.

Ameet Patel, the artist who organized the project, said it represents the feelings of many different groups who worked on it, including recent refugees and immigrants, police, and community leaders.

“Our vision is bright, our community is unified and our neighbors are beautiful,” he said.

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said Aurora’s diversity makes it a special place.

“We value that, we treasure that,” Hogan said. “And we want to use it to help bring this community even more together.”

According to the 2010 Census, more than half of Aurora residents are members of a minority group, making it one of the most diverse major cities in the country.

That diversity is on display everyday in northwest Aurora, where refugees from Asia and Africa have settled with thousands of immigrants from around the world.

Aurora City Councilwoman Barb Cleland said the neighborhood has constantly changed for generations, first drawing people because of the nearby Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, then because of Stapelton International Airport.

Now, the neighborhood is home to a booming and diverse population of Karen and Bhutanese refugees as well as thousands of immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Change is really the only constant in the neighborhood, Cleland said.

“That’s what makes Original Aurora so unique,” she said.

Hari Uprety, chairman of the Global Bhutanese Community of Colorado, led the Sanskrit chant and said he had a message for the victims: “You will be better soon, and we will have better days in the future.”

Uprety is one of the leaders of the local Bhutanese community, which includes about 2,500 Hindu refugees who fled Bhutan amid rampant persecution in the early 1990s. The group first settled in a refugee camp in Nepal until coming to the United States in 2008.

“I’m here today to help continue the healing process,” he said.

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