Bahai News -- Long Beach Press Telegram - L.B. leaders say meeting will be a turning point in effort to stop violence Article Published: Saturday, May 17, 2003 - 8:12:54 PM PST

L.B. leaders say meeting will be a turning point in effort to stop violence

By Mark Edward Nero, Staff writer

"Today is the turning point. Today is the day that the people of God come together,' said the Rev. Garrick Huff, one of the event's many speakers.

The event was part call-to-arms, part pep rally for local clergy, parents, activists, police officers and others in the struggle against gang violence. In addition to speakers, there were several prayer sessions and two singing performances.

The 90-minute, interdenominational service was hosted by the Rev. Stephen Pierson and the congregation at Grant AME Church in Central Long Beach.

Among the participating clergy were representatives from the Bahai, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran and Khmer faiths. Although their brands of spirituality differed, they showed solidarity in their desire to end youth violence. More than 150 people attended the event.

"We are here with one purpose: to unite the city,' said Jhaziel Romio, a member of Emanuel Foursquare Church. "We need to let God's love shine through us.

"It tears me apart walking down the street and seeing another ambulance pick up another kid. I just can't stand it. I'd like to get everyone to cooperate, to take back our streets.'

The prayer service was a response to a wave of gang violence in the city over the past two months. During a period in mid-April alone, there were 10 shootings in as many days, according to police statistics.

In the past three weeks, 140 people have been arrested in the city for gang-related activity, according to Police Chief Anthony Batts.

"The time for talking is over,' Batts said at Saturday's service. "This is the beginning of making things happen.'

Batts said that more community members need to take a more active role in mentoring the city's youth.

"I need you to step outside the church walls,' he told the assemblage. "People are scared to death to get involved. I need you to be courageous. We have to be out front. And you have to have the faith that we're going to make a difference.'

©Copyright 2003, Long Beach Press Telegram (CA, USA)

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