Clergy unite for peace, call for stricter gun laws

August 17, 2012
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Clergy and religious leaders gathered at the New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church Tuesday to show support and extend prayers for victims of violence in the city, as well as those affected by the recent Sikh Temple shooting and Colorado Massacre. And they called for support of stricter weapons laws.

The meeting of 50 faith leaders was one of multiple gatherings held since July by the Chicago Clergy Coalition to discuss the recent violence and ways to prevent future acts.

“Just recently here in Chicago, we experienced the tragic death of 7-year-old Heaven Sutton. Then there was the Colorado Massacre, followed by the domestic terrorist act at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin,” the Rev. Ira Acree of Austin’s Greater St. John Bible Church said in a press release.

“This string of deplorable violent acts has prompted members of diverse faith communities to unite and use our collective voices to protect humanity from the dreadful destruction that assault weapons cause.”

The group said after a successful Chicago Peace Weekend in late July, the faith leaders pledged their support for a citywide petition drive calling for a reinstatement of the law that bans assault weapons and supporting House Bill 5831, which promotes firearm identification and handgun registration.

“A great cross-section of people of faith have come together to join in a crisis that we and our members are all faced to deal with gun violence,” the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church said in the release.

“We have chosen to join together and use our moral authority to call for the reinstatement on the assault weapon ban and HB 5831 to call for registration of all guns. We will empower our members to put on a full court press for their passage,” he said.

Balwant Singh Hansra of the Sikh Society expressed appreciation for the show of support from the Chicago community following last week’s fatal Wisconsin shooting that killed six.

“The encouraging words of Dr. Hansra were inspiring,” said the Rev. Larry Greenfield of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago in the release. “We are all the more committed to the cause of bringing peace to our city, starting with the adoption of common sense handgun legislation in Illinois.”

The group is planning a petition drive for the weekend of Sept. 7-9, where they anticipate to see hundreds of participating faith institutions.

Before the event, more than 100 leaders are expected to meet again at New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church for a final planning meeting Aug. 28. At the meeting they will also design plans to involve youth and young adults in the movement to promote peace and end Chicago’s senseless violence.

“We have the opportunity to come together as people of faith to address this violence, all of us, from all walks of life,” Jacqueline Clark of CROSSwalk said in the release. “It is a clear incidence of evil, and if we come together, we have the opportunity to do something about it. This petition is the first step.”

The Rev. Jose Landaverde of Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Catholic Church said he will make sure the petition is translated in Spanish so it can be widely distributed in the Hispanic community.

“I support this effort 100 percent,” he said in the release.

The Rev. Cy Fields of New Landmark Mount Baptist Church said in the release he hopes they can inspire others across the country to take action.

“The faith community of Chicago and surrounding areas is the sleeping giant in this struggle that can lead our city to a more peaceful existence for all and be a model for urban change across America.”

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