Faith leaders condemn gun violence heading into Memorial Day weekend: ‘It’s all hands on deck’

Ahead of the historically violent holiday weekend, church leaders from across the city prayed for an end to the chaos.

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Edwina Holley, left, and Kendall Brown, right, pray during the Michigan Avenue March for Peace on North Michigan Avenue in the Loop on Memorial Day weekend, Saturday afternoon, May 28, 2022.

Edwina Holley, left, and Kendall Brown, right, pray during the Michigan Avenue March for Peace on North Michigan Avenue in the Loop on Memorial Day weekend, Saturday afternoon, May 28, 2022.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago’s faith leaders want peace.

In the wake of a violent month highlighted by the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Seandell Holliday and a mass shooting resulting in two deaths downtown, a coalition of pastors, bishops and other church leaders walked down Michigan Avenue on Saturday praying for an end to the mayhem.

“There will be no silence till we end the violence,” a group of around 50 people chanted as they marched from the Mag Mile south to Millennium Park, stopping steps from where Holliday was shot.

A group of church leaders and others gathered to for a prayer walk down Michigan Avenue Saturday. It took place following a deadly month of gun violence in Chicago and ahead of a historically violent holiday weekend.

A group of church leaders and others gathered to for a prayer walk down Michigan Avenue Saturday. It took place following a deadly month of gun violence in Chicago and ahead of a historically violent holiday weekend.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The rally took place as the nation once again grieves the victims of mass shootings from Texas to New York. Earlier this week, a gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, just 10 days after a white supremacist opened fire and killed 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

Memorial Day weekend has historically ushered in increased summertime gun violence in Chicago, but advocates are hoping for a different outcome this year.

“Things have to be stopped before they become normal,” said Pastor Donovan Price, a street pastor who addressed the crowd at the rally. “We don’t want our young people thinking this is how life is.”

At least 225 people have been shot and killed in Chicago so far this year, according to Sun-Times data.

Attendees of the Michigan Avenue March for Peace chant along North Michigan Avenue in the Loop on Memorial Day weekend, Saturday afternoon, May 28, 2022.

Attendees of the Michigan Avenue March for Peace chant along North Michigan Avenue in the Loop on Memorial Day weekend, Saturday afternoon, May 28, 2022.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Drawing on momentum pushing toward gun reform following the Uvalde school shooting, Pastor James Meeks of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago called on public officials to pass universal background checks for firearm purchases.

While the focus of Saturday’s rally and prayer walk was spiritual, leaders said action goes beyond prayer.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Price said. “There’s plenty of gang bangers and drug dealers. We need plenty of hope bringers.”

A resounding chant broke out in Millennium Park’s Wrigley Square following New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Cy Fields’ prayer: “Chicago belongs to God.”

“Chicago doesn’t belong to the mayor. Chicago belongs to God,” Fields said. “Chicago doesn’t belong to [Governor J.B.] Pritzker. Chicago belongs to God.”

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