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Close to 100 leaders across state participate in Gun Violence Awareness Month

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BUFFALO and NEW YORK — In honor of Gun Violence Awareness Month, close to 100 religious leaders across New York state participated in “Faith Weekend,” spreading awareness of gun violence and honoring the individuals and families whose lives have been impacted. Throughout the weekend, faith leaders held services that included moments of silence, group prayer, and sermons dedicated to the devastating impact of gun violence. Faith institutions play a key role in providing information, resources and support to members on issues affecting their congregants. Acknowledging the grieving process and role of faith leaders over the course of a dedicated weekend creates a space for communities to process, mourn and find strength in the days and months ahead.

Over the previous weekend of June 4, in coordination with Gun Violence Awareness Day, additional religious institutions also held numerous services dedicated to gun violence awareness, with many congregants wearing orange, the official color of Gun Violence Awareness Month. The services of the previous weekend highlight the critical role of faith-based institutions in helping to heal communities across New York State. 

Buffalo continues to mourn following the mass shooting at Tops,” said Mayor Byron Brown.  “Our communities have been forever impacted, and will continue to feel the pain of this for years to come. Our faith leaders play a pivotal role in the healing process, allowing families to have a safe space to come together, grieve and support one another. Faith Weekend gives us a moment to pause and acknowledge the devastating loss we in Buffalo have experienced, as so many other communities, sadly, have and continue to experience as well.”

“Syracuse joins communities around the country, especially our neighbors in Buffalo, in grieving and prayer following too many senseless mass shootings. Faith Weekend encourages us all to come together and support one another in this time of mourning and healing,” said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. “Our faith-based institutions play a pivotal role in the healing process, and I am grateful to our many faith leaders in Syracuse and beyond for the part they play in mending communities in times of need.” 

Bishop Mitchell Taylor, from the Center of Hope International, also acknowledged the recent shooting in Buffalo. “From Buffalo to Queens, gun violence touches communities across New York and the nation. Our greatest strength lies in connecting with one another through prayer, reflection and service,” he said. “Honoring and remembering those lost to gun violence is merely the first step to healing our communities. I look forward to joining faith leaders across denominations and the state of New York to echo this message of peace.”

The new pastor of Bethel AME Church in Buffalo, Rev. Paul J. Thomas, gave witness to the pain gun violence has caused. “At Bethel AME, we have grieved alongside our members since the shooting at Tops. Our community has been devastated by gun violence. Part of the church’s role within the community is to pray for and honor the people we have lost, while supporting the families who are still with us during this incredibly painful time. We will continue to pray for, support, and be a resource to our families throughout this month and beyond,” he said. 

K. Bain, founder of Community Capacity Development, showed his concern over the safety of religious buildings and communities.

 “Institutions such as churches, synagogues and mosques aren’t safe, and there’s evidence to that point. Increasing awareness in these spaces, security training, and heightened consciousness is key,” he said. “The shooter in Buffalo could have gone to a faith-based institution just as easily, because that is where black and brown communities come together. There’s a history of attacks in places of worship via domestic terrorism, and so awareness for prevention is the key to safety in our religious spaces.”

Faith Weekend is part of a broader campaign by Gun Violence Awareness Month and other gun violence prevention organizations. This effort was kicked off by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Human Justice Leader K. Bain, and Anti-Gun Violence Advocate Linda Beigel Schulman and included Mayors from Rochester, Albany, Yonkers, Dunkirk, Mount Vernon, and Niagara Falls with the goal of deepening the commitment and accountability in New York–and nationwide–on the widespread issue of gun violence. 

The effort continues to bring together and connect community leaders as the growing coalition seeks to address the various roots of gun violence, raise awareness of the issue, amplify best practices, and engage in active conversation with all impacted communities. This year’s Gun Violence Awareness Month is of particular significance following recent high-profile shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, Laguna Woods, and New York City.

A list of participating churches and congregations can be found here.

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