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Interfaith prayer service begins the healing process

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St. Martin de Porres Parish saw strangers sitting shoulder to shoulder. Members of the diocesan African American Commission, St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, Response to Love Center, Boy Scouts, the Jesuit community packed into the East Side church on May 23. People came from all throughout Western New York to hear from religious leaders and heal from the recent violence that has scarred the neighborhood.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher (center) stands with Pastor Tim Brown and Pastor James Giles at the opening of “Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled,” an interfaith prayer service held in response to the tragic Tops shooting. The May 23 service took place at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled,” the interfaith prayer service organized by the Diocese of Buffalo for the victims of the May 14 mass shooting at the nearby Tops, saw representative from the Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Baptist communities and the Buffalo Peacemakers, who spoke on the need to end racism in all its forms.

“The eyes of our nation have been fixed on Buffalo these past, excruciatingly difficult days, and, as we must acknowledge, for all the wrong reasons,” Bishop Michael W. Fisher said. “We’ve experienced a demonstration of pure hatred and evil, an act of blatant and violent racism. We have suffered indescribable loss, the likes of which has left us stunned and stricken with searing heartache.

“Something is terribly wrong when a trip to the grocery store can be an occasion to experience such unmitigated violence, such callous disregard for human life, such life-altering trauma that will stay with us and this community on the East Side especially for years to come. Going to the grocery store is something that we all do and never think that we will not go home. Each morning we awake with the only hope that all of this has been but a terrible nightmare, and that those cherished loved ones that have been taken from us in the span of those few horrific moments are somehow still with us and among us.

The bishop pointed to the outpouring of support for the victims and the widespread feeling of loss from our community.

“This event does not and will not define us and what Buffalo and the people here in this community are all about,” he said. “We are about love. But, as I trust we all agree, it should not require a tragedy of such magnitude to lead us to cherish one another; to be there for each other, to recognize the sacredness and inherent worth of every human person, to see the spark of God in each other’s eyes.”

Bishop Fisher condemned the attitudes and ideologies that inspire vile prejudice and hatred, which drew applause and Amens.

“Enough is enough!” he said. “Why does it take something like this to fully bring us together like this? How much more will it take for people of honest intent and self-professed faith to rise and stand together, and defeat once and for all the forces of hatred, prejudice, racism and division?”

Imam Syed Khaliliulla Qadri spoke on the story of Cain and Abel as told in the Quran. Cain killing Abel was the first murder committed on earth. God said that “the one who murders one soul unjustly, it is as if he has killed all of humanity. And the one who protects one soul it is as if he has protected all of humanity.”

As a sign of friendship, those attending the interfaith prayer service tied colored string to the wrists of those around them. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“The Muslim community also mourns the loss of these people and we pray to God almighty to bestow His mercy upon all of us, and remove the difficulty and suffering and the pain everyone is going through and substitute it for goodness and kindness and justice,” he said.

Pastor James Giles of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries was in Pittsburgh at a Mad Dads meeting, addressing gun violence when he heard of the shooting. He said no city responds to crisis like Buffalo.

“There’s a groundswell of love and caring,” he said. “I think this is what Christ meant when He said to love each other. Even loving our neighbors is a demonstration of how we love Him and if we say we love Him and can’t stand our neighbors, then we’re lying, because we cannot possibly love God without loving His creation.”

The diocese also remembered the victims of the May 14 shooting by having all its churches ring their bells last Saturday, marking one week since the tragic event. The bells rang 13 times in honor of the 10 killed and three wounded.

The St. Lawrence Food Pantry is currently at double its usual volume. They desperately need volunteers to help with sorting and packing of food, as well as truck drivers to help with deliveries. Needed donations include peanut butter, pasta, macaroni and cheese, cleaning supplies (Laundry detergent, bleach, surface cleaner), and non-perishable goods.

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