National faith leaders respond to the surging gun violence

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GodSquad member and Pastor of the Flatbush Avenue Seventh Day Adventist Church, John Williams (in cap) speak to members of the community.
Photo by Dawn Plummer

Thousands of New Yorkers all dressed in orange marched in Brooklyn on Saturday, June 4 to support families of the victims who lost their lives to gun violence. Local church leaders organized the event to call once again to cease gun violence in the cities and the country. The march was announced following a meeting of the clergy on Tuesday, May 31, as part of the “Wear Orange Weekend 2022.”

The serious increase in hate crimes and mass killings, as a result of the gun-violence now gripping the country has led to a national attention by some clergy leaders who find themselves faced also with the difficult circumstances of dealing with the pains their parishioners face. This new level of hurt led to a call from the clergy leaders that a collectively voice for positive change was needed.

More than 262 men and women of the cloth convened via video conference from several states across America including Illinois, Colorado, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Texas. They met to discuss and to disseminate information surrounding the horrific and seriousness of these mass killings. Pastor Louis Straker, Jr., Brooklyn minister and leader of the Godsquad 67th Precinct and Clergy Council, opened the meeting and welcomed the participants noting that the church had a credible voice and believed that if they came together as one voice, they could help make a change. The summit aimed to show support and solidarity for families and ensure that churches remain available to help during the pandemic and in time of grief for members of the community.

Convenor of the meeting, Pastor Gilford Monrose, faith advisor and representative for Safe Cities told the group that their voice was crucial for gun laws to change; so by gathering collectively and sharing experiences, “we can change the direction of the hate among us.” The clergy leaders concurred that new policies on gun laws and gun related issues should be examined and must be changed. Pastor  Monrose also acknowledged that some of the stories he heard from these church leaders on gun violence that were happening in their respective community were not reported through any media outlets and so several hurting families were grieving by themselves.

During the sometimes-painful discussion, ministers shared their experiences from some of the family members who were grieving. Rev. Kyev Tatum of Fort Worth, TX said his counseling to some of his parishioners are for them to “just grieve, on top of grieve, just grieve… as we have to find a place to change the trajectory of what is happening.” The clergy leaders joined in the call for more background checks on the purchasing of guns. “What can be done to collective mitigate… How can we help?” The Rev. Sean Smith of Atlanta, Georgia asked. Several pastors called for communities to be better equipped to deal with catastrophes such as mass shootings. Rev. Denise Walden from the city of Buffalo reminded the clergy leaders of the task ahead to fight gun-violence, “this is not going to be a sprint, it will be a marathon” she emphasized, telling the group also that there was a need for resources for the children in Buffalo. “It will take a lot to re-bound from the experience,” the pastor declared. “How do we help each other?” Community Activist, Erica Ford of Buffalo asked. “Buffalo is a food and technology desert,” Ms. Ford said.

New York City’s Mayor, Eric Adams, joined the meeting of these clergy, men and women and expressed his gratitude for having them joining forces, also thanking the clergy leaders from across the country who participated. He thanked them especially for their input in the struggle against gun violence and said that prevention mechanism must be in place to begin addressing the issues regarding guns.

The meeting was supported and arranged by Pastor Straker, Jr. from the Godsquad 67th Precinct & Brooklyn Clergy Council, along with Pastor Monrose.

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