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Faith leaders in Lexington call for community-wide response regarding acts of violence

Stu Johnson

Lexington has seen an increase in violent crime in recent weeks. The heart of downtown was the site for an "End the Violence" prayer vigil last night. Representatives from multiple faiths addressed those in attendance. The location was next to the Crime Victims Memorial.

A relatively small group gathered to hear prayers and comments from several people representing Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths. Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton introduced each one including Aiyub Palmer on the Board of Trustees at Masjid Bilal. He said violence is a spiritual problem.

“And we as faith leaders need to be there on the front line to address, to support, to provide solutions to these spiritual problems,” said Palmer.

Rabbi David Wirtshafter of Temple Adath Israel said Jews, as they approach their high holidays of Rosh Hashanah, the confessional begins with the words, “we have sinned.”

“Our confessional for the high holidays is entirely in the plural, we sinned, we murdered, we lied, we committed adultery, we stole. We have a "we" problem and it’s going to require a "we" solution,” said Wirtshafter.

Before offering his prayer, Immanuel Baptist Church Lead Pastor Ron Edmonson said his church is in an affluent part of town, and violence is not seen just outside their doors.

“If it impacts this community in any way it impacts us as a church because we care, we care for this city, we care for the people of this city, and anyway we can help, we’re here to do that,” said Edmonson.

Deacon Ramon Alfaro is a pastoral associate at Historic St. Paul Catholic Church. Nearly all of his two-and-a-half-minute prayer was in Spanish.

Brother Shahied Rashid, former Imam at Masjid Bilal referenced the biblical garden, the beginning, as recognized by Jews, Christians, and Muslims as important to tend to. He said much in society has fractured families, schools, government, and everything else.

“For us to really come back to the life that we want that we perceived initially in the garden we have to come back to obeying God’s will in the garden,” said Rashid.

The reverend Lori Brock is with St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. During her prayer, she noted caring shouldn’t vary based on the location of violence.

“What happens in our neighbors’ streets happens on our streets and that it should not be our blood before it matters. It is our blood, our town, our city, our community, our violence,” said Brock.

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, of Chabad of the Bluegrass, said the search for ways to address violence needs to be broad and he concluded with the blow of the ram’s horn.

“It is incumbent on us to look around all across the world, all across the nation, and see the solutions that are working and bring them here….we ask the shofar, like the cry of a child, wake us up to the needs of our community, the needs of our children, and what we can do to benefit them,” said Litvin.

The end the violence prayer vigil concluded with remarks and a prayer from Consolidated Baptist Church Pastor Richard Gaines who urged those attending to be the start of something bigger.

“Let it be said that a few gathered on that night in Sept of 2022 and as we look back, that’s where it began, that’s where it took hold, that’s where it took off because men and women were committed to the cause of Christ,” said Gaines.

Mayor Linda Gorton requested those in attendance to leave the gathering quietly, thankful for the community and pledging support to one another to make Lexington safer for everyone.

Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 30 years.
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