Celebrating Diversity and Unity: Sikh Community Shines at Cincinnati Festival of Faiths

by Manjari Singh

In a vibrant showcase of cultural diversity and unity, the Sikh Community in Cincinnati and neighboring Dayton recently converged at the sixth annual “Cincinnati Festival of Faiths,” hosted by the organization “Equasion.” This extraordinary event, aimed at celebrating the richness of various faith traditions within the community, witnessed enthusiastic participation from more than 30 faith organizations representing 13 world religions.

The Festival kicked off with a moving multi-faith prayer service that set a harmonious tone for the day’s festivities. Aasees Kaur, the wife of the late Jaipal Singh, one of the founding members of the Festival, shared profound insights into the foundational teachings of Sikhism through the “Mool Mantar.” Her words beautifully articulated the Sikh aspiration to merge into the Divine Being, drawing parallels between this spiritual journey and elements of nature, like water merging with water and light merging with light. She emphasized the Sikh yearning for peace and justice as fundamental values.

The Sikh booth at the Festival stood alongside several exhibits representing diverse faith-based organizations in Cincinnati. It provided a valuable opportunity for visitors to gain insights into Sikh beliefs, practices, and values through books, brochures, and the five Sikh articles of faith known as the “Kakkars.” Booklets containing information about Sikhs were thoughtfully distributed to guests.

In a bid to deepen understanding and foster cultural exchange, Sikh community members organized turban-tying sessions. These sessions enlightened visitors about the profound significance of the Sikh turban, or “dastaar.” Sikh volunteers patiently guided participants through the process, highlighting the turban’s symbolism of equality, humility, and commitment to Sikh principles. The Festival came alive with vibrant colors and the rich traditions of Sikh culture, as attendees of all ages proudly sported their newly tied turbans and captured the moment with photographs.

Collaborating with members of the Hindu community, Sikhs prepared and served Langar (community kitchen food) at the event. The Langar, a staple in Sikh gurdwaras (places of worship) worldwide, epitomized the values of selfless service, equality, and community. Sikhs extended this beautiful tradition to the Festival of Faiths, serving a delicious vegetarian feast to all present.

The Langar service at the Cincinnati Festival of Faiths brought together diverse individuals to sit side by side in the spirit of unity. It served as a powerful reminder of the Sikh commitment to fostering a sense of belonging and equality among all, regardless of their background or faith.

Mayor of Cincinnati, Aftab Purewal, praised the festival as a symbol of unity and inclusivity. He expressed his pride in the local Sikh community and their dedication to service and commitment to those around them. Mayor Purewal highlighted the importance of sharing the Sikh tradition of selfless service, exemplified by the Langar, with the broader community.

During this remarkable occasion, the community also took a moment to remember and pay tribute to Jaipal Singh, a co-chair of the Cincinnati Festival of Faiths, whose passing in May 2022 left a void that was deeply felt by all. Chip Harrod, the Executive Director of the Festival, eloquently remembered Jaipal’s significant contributions to the event’s success.

The Festival, hosting representatives from 13 world faiths, prominently featured the local Sikh community, whose multifaceted contributions enriched the event’s spirit. Jaipal Singh played a pivotal role in bringing together this diverse array of faiths, emphasizing the festival’s mission of fostering education, empathy, understanding, and love among the various faith-based traditions in the greater Cincinnati area. Jaipal’s unwavering dedication to creating such an event was commended, and his enduring spirit was palpable throughout the festivities.

The Festival of Faiths has evolved into a shining example of how diverse communities can come together to promote interfaith harmony, celebrate cultural heritage, and bridge gaps between different belief systems. Sikhs, through their active participation in events like these, aim to foster greater understanding and appreciation of their faith and traditions while building bonds with neighbors of various backgrounds.

As Cincinnati continues to embrace its multicultural identity, events like the Festival of Faiths play a vital role in promoting tolerance, respect, and unity among its residents. The Sikh community’s efforts to share their traditions, such as turban tying and langar, serve as a testament to the power of cultural exchange and dialogue in creating a more inclusive and harmonious society. The Festival of Faiths stands as a beacon of hope and a celebration of the rich tapestry of faiths that make up our diverse community.

Manjari Singh

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