Community prays for end of violence

Pastors, residents attend nonviolence event

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown residents gathered Saturday in the parking lot of Martha’s Boulevard Bar and Grille to share prayers and hope for the community at a prayer rally hosted by the United Pastors, Clergy and Community Leaders of Greater Youngstown Against the Violence to kick off its “Stop the Violence” campaign for the summer.

The event was led by the Rev. Kenneth Simon, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown. Simon said the campaign is led by the local religious community as a response to the violence in the city.

“The Stop the Violence campaign is an effort by the faith community here in the city of Youngstown,” Simon said. “We’re coming together to send a message out to the community that we want this violence to end.”

The rally was held in the wake of the killings of two Youngstown area teenagers, Amya Monserrat,15, who was shot to death on April 15 outside of Martha’s Boulevard, and London Jones, 13, who was shot to death on May 18.

Simon said that this will be the third stop-the-

violence effort that the group has hosted and that the campaign will continue throughout the summer. The group will organize prayer marches every other weekend beginning in June. It will set up various prayer and fasting events throughout local churches, and they will have a mentoring component through which individuals can be trained to be mentors for youth in the community, he said.

Simon and the rest of the pastors and clergy in attendance indicated they hope their campaign will help curb violent activity in Youngstown. Simon said he knew that a day of organized prayer was needed to kick off the effort.

“Our city needs healing,” he said. “Healing from this violence. And prayer starts that process.”

Those in attendance at the rally spent more than an hour singing worship songs and praying with various pastors from the area. Prayers were said for the healing of the city, healing of families who have lost loved ones through violence and for the local law enforcement, among others.

Youngstown police Chief Carl Davis addressed the crowd and shared his hope that Youngstown would one day no longer have to worry about the constant threat of violent crime.

“It is my prayer,” Davis said,”that the day will come where the discussions regarding homicides in our city, and where gatherings like these, are no longer necessary. It is my prayer that the day will come where I will no longer be awakened by a phone call in the middle of the night that a 15-year-old child was shot and killed while attending a sweet 16 birthday party right here. It is my prayer that the day will come where I no longer get a phone call from the chief detectives one month later, that a 13-year-old child was shot and killed on a school night, after midnight, while at a street party. It is my prayer, it is my prayer, it is my prayer.”

The organization knows it is important to be available as a beacon of hope in the city. Simon repeated the importance of having resources available for those who are in need or struggling. The group wants to help with the betterment of the community.

Jeff Stanford, the pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Warren, said that the reason the group hosted the rally at the site of the killing of Monserrat was to show that the faith community of Youngstown will not waver in the face of tragedy.

“A young lady was murdered here,” Stanford said. “I think it’s very important to make sure that those who perpetuated these murders know that we’re not going to stop. That we’re going to be here and that we’re going to speak our truth to power and make sure that we continue to show love for this beloved community in which we stand.”


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