Diverse Chicago faith leaders call for racial unity after S.C. church shooting

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The white man who massacred nine people at a historic black church in South Carolina last week hoped to incite a race riot, so people of faith must respond by promoting racial unity, diverse faith leaders said at a Chicago service Sunday for the victims.

“You know it has to be something of great magnitude to bring us out here today, on a day that we celebrate fathers,” Cy Fields, pastor of New Landmark Baptist Church, said at the service held atNew Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the West Side.

“It is a time for people of faith to rise up and not allow hate to drown out the power of love. So we come together in unity,” said Fields, president of the Pastors Leadership Network.

“As much as we’re sad about what happened in Charleston, South Carolina, it is my prayer that out of it will come a resolve for all of us who worship God, to use this as an opportunity to spread love throughout the land, so that we can live as a community of brotherhood,” he said.

The Network issued a call that drew Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian and other faith leaders and their followers to the church at 4301 W. Washington. The service at the church pastored by the Rev. Marshall Hatch, an activist preacher, was attended by about 150 — black, white and Asian — gathered to mourn the victims of the hate crime that occurred Wednesday.

RELATED: First service held at Charleston church since 9 slain Rev. Jesse Jackson calls South Carolina shootings ‘domestic terrorism’

Authorities say Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, walked into Emanuel AME Church — the oldest church in the South — and started shooting during a midweek Bible study session. Roof allegedly sat with worshippers for an hour before the massacre.

“It gives me great sorrow once again to see the face of evil has shown itself in our society, to see the darkness, the evil, embodied in such a way that a young man could hatch this plan, walk into a prayer meeting, look into the eyes of sons and daughters and because of a heart and mind so filled with hatred and racism and white supremacy, execute this evil plan,” said the Rev. Alan Taylor, pastor of Unity Temple in Oak Park. “For many who have consciously or unconsciously participated in allowing for such racial hatred to exist, to be unnamed and unchallenged, may the scales fall from our eyes.”

The Rev. Ira Acree, of Greater St. John Baptist Church on the West Side, said the Leadership Network put out the call on Friday night and it was gratifying to see that so many diverse faith leaders answered.

“These last few days of just trying to really grasp what happened in Charleston in the house of Godhas been overwhelming and gruesome,” Acree said. “It seems to me personally that each day it’s getting worse, because the realities of the hatred and oppression continue to stare us in our faces. The significance of having this broad interfaith and interracial coalition, come together, cannot be dismissed.”

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About 150 people attended Sunday’s service — black, white and Asian — to mourn the victims of Wednesday’s shooting. | Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

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