CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – Clevelanders gathered on Monday at a church on the city’s east side for a prayer vigil for the 10 victims killed in the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo, and the 19 students and two teachers killed in the May 24 school massacre in Texas.
In the opening prayer at Fifth Christian Disciples of Christ Church, Pastor Regis Bunch told those mourning the loss of the innocent victims, “we come before your presence God… to call out the names of those whose lives were stolen, taken from them, either by the narrative of white supremacy or by one’s own mental anguish.”
The victims’ names were read and a plant was watered in a ceremony called The Libation as a sign of respect and fellowship for those who were killed.
The mass shootings at the store in Buffalo and at the elementary school in Texas have those who gathered at the vigil and many people across the country looking for spiritual guidance.
“God, even though we are crying, even though we are in the midst, we still have hope. We still believe. Prayer works, prayer changes things, prayer changes people,” said Pastor Gerald Cameron of Celebration United Methodist Church.
But faith leaders say hope and prayers alone will not change the atmosphere in the country that they say is enabling the mass shootings, and that’s why they are calling for direct political action.
Pastor Bunch told mourners at the vigil, “Pray as if everything depended on God, act as if everything depended on us.”
He and other church leaders in Cleveland are urging people of faith to use the power of the ballot box to elect those who will fight what they believe are the root causes of the mass carnage in a litany that is known as “after the vigils, comes vigilance.”
“When we say we want an end to gun violence, an end to white supremacy, who has that on their platform and voting in that type of direction, absolutely. What can we do with our prayers? What can we do with our faith?” said Pastor Bunch.
Some of the churches taking part in today’s vigil are now joining a campaign by the Cleveland chapter of the NAACP to organize potential voters and to make sure they vote in November.