By Donna Parcell
Three million children witness a shooting each year in the United States. Every month an average of 70 women in the US are shot and killed by an intimate partner. Nearly 1 million women alive today have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner. Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens–386 school shootings have occurred since Columbine on April 20, 1999, and more than 356,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine. Every day, 120 Americans are killed with guns, and more than 200 are shot and wounded.
These facts are disturbing to say the least, and as members of a peace church many Brethren have decided to say enough is enough. During this year’s Annual Conference, On Earth Peace and its new Church of the Brethren Gun Violence Prevention Action Team encouraged Conference attendees to wear orange on Thursday, July 6, and join in a march to Cincinnati’s city hall for a vigil and public witness about gun violence.
A group of about 100 people gathered behind an orange banner stating, “We can end gun violence,” and walked to city hall while singing “Down by the Riverside.” Orange sashes were provided to those who did not have orange clothing so all could be in solidarity. Some carried banners stating, “End gun violence” and “Disarm Hate,” others wore orange shirts stating, “We can end gun violence” or “Moms demand action for gun sense in America.” Parents walked with their young children on their shoulders or pushed them in strollers, expressing concern over their children’s futures. Older children walked arm-in-arm with their parents or friends. Young adults and older adults all joined together to support the cause.
Upon arrival at city hall, the group was welcomed by Sandi Evans Rogers, a Church of the Brethren pastor from Frederick Md.
Cincinnati vice-mayor Jan-Michelle Kearney, who wore an orange dress, voiced her concern over gun violence and reiterated that something needed to change.
Gerald Rhoades from Harrisburg, Pa., led the group in a litany of remembrance and advocacy.
Story tellers including former Annual Conference moderator and retired pastor Belita Mitchell, and Mandy Park from Knoxville, Md., relayed instances of the tragedy of gun violence and why things must change. Krista Woodworth, Ohio state lead for Moms Demand Action (https://momsdemandaction.org), also shared stories of the impact of gun violence.
Pastor Jackie Jackson from Cincinnati told his personal survivor story. Several people in his family were lost to gun violence. He concluded by singing the poignant song “Not One More.” (Find a recording on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjkUcrWwz1E.)
Matt Guynn, On Earth Peace co-executive director, challenged the group with a call to action.
The program concluded with a prayer by Bev Eikenberry from North Manchester, Ind.
Saddened with the knowledge that there have been shootings recently in front of the very hotels where Conference attendees were staying, the group walked back to the Conference center determined to take a stand and make a difference.
Something must be done to change these tragedies that are destroying so many lives, forever. It is time to make the world a safer place. It is time to live up to our Church of the Brethren heritage as a peace church and work toward a peaceful solution. It is time to take a stand to end gun violence.
— Donna Parcell was part of the Press Team for the 2023 Annual Conference. The vigil was a launch event for a new network of Church of the Brethren gun violence prevention advocates; contact Mandy Park at cob-gvp@OnEarthPeace.org or visit www.onearthpeace.org/gvp-cob.
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