Members from nearly 10 Austin churches gathered last Sunday at several intersections to pray for a stop to violence on the West Side.
“There have been the most killings, and the most crimes have taken place in the Austin area,” said Karen Williams, a member of Word of Life Christian Center, 5723 W. North Avenue. “So there is a need for city-wide prayer.”
Since Jan. 1, there have been 19 murders in Austin, out of 216 murders throughout Chicago, according to the RedEye homicide tracker.
“We believe that the nature of the sins that people are committing that they don’t know Christ,” Williams said, as she stood at the intersection of North and Central July 12th handing out flyers and praying for passers by.
Joining together in prayer for the people in the community is just one effort to bring attention and hopefully a solution to the issue, Williams said.
Rose Taylor, wife of the head pastor at Word of Life, said her purpose was similar to that of John the Baptist in the Bible – to be a voice crying out into the wilderness.
Although the violence happening in the streets of Austin differs somewhat from the issues that played out in biblical days, the need for prayer is still present.
“I’m here today to pray and to lift up this neighborhood and community because I see a darkness,” Taylor said. “People are walking in darkness.”
Word of Life church has been in the neighborhood for 20 years now, Taylor said, and although there have been no direct violent acts made upon the church, the surrounding area has seen multiple instances of crime and violence.
Not too long ago, there was a shoot out on North Avenue near the church at 3 p.m. one afternoon, Taylor said. Fortunately, it occurred just after services had been dismissed for the day, so no one from the congregation was harmed, she said.
The crime and violence in Austin is a sign that some in this neighborhood are ticking-time bombs, Taylor said. And because of the economic strain in the community, people are reacting to the effects of their environment.
“They don’t have nothing, so they take their anger out on one another,” Taylor said.
The prayer walk was an effort to start the ball rolling in the right direction, event organizer Joan Cox said.
“I think our community is basically starving,” said Cox, a resident of nearby Galewood who was raised in Austin.
“When I say starving, we need jobs in our community,” she said. “We need the church to help in our community to take up some of the slack.”
Cox said elected officials and Chicago police need to be held accountable for how violence is plaguing the West and South sides.
People are desperate to survive, and that desperation plays out through violence; that’s why the focus must be on improving the economical situation, she said.
This won’t be the last prayer walk in Austin, Cox said.
“It’s people out there hurting, and I just feel that the churches should come out and minister to the community, and pray for them and lift them up.”
Today, the Chicago Tribune featured several other religious leaders who are putting the spotlight on violence in hopes of making Austin safer.