Leaders in Toledo's religious community said Thursday they could not stand by idly while the city's youth continue to take guns onto the streets.
"Every time I watch the news or pick up the newspaper and see that someone else has been shot, I am wrought with distress," said the Rev. Steve Anthony, executive director of Toledo Area Ministries. "I ask, 'Where do these young men get these guns? What possesses them to pick up the gun and try to take another life? What is so valuable?' "
The 22 religious leaders and community members gathered outside St. Martin de Porres Church, 1119 West Bancroft St., for the prayer vigil Thursday, asking for peace on Toledo's streets.
Since June 1, 27 people have been shot, one fatally wounded.
The group planned to walk the streets of Toledo's central city after the prayers but said they hadn't been organized enough and wanted to get their numbers up because of safety reasons, Pastor Anthony said.
But the leaders assured they would come together again, take to the streets, and "hug the children and let them know we have not forgotten about them," said the Rev. Stanley Clark of United Visions Baptist Church.
Pastor Clark said he remembered being a young boy in Toledo, riding bikes down the street, being able to play in neighborhoods that are now considered some of the city's most dangerous, and not having to worry about confronting danger.
Times have changed, he said. There's a territory war happening among the city's youth, it's "a problem that starts within our homes," he said.
Police have said some of the shootings this month have been gang related, specifically citing a shooting at West Bancroft and Sylvan Avenue, just a block from where the prayer vigil gathered, where more than 60 shell casings were found and one man wounded.
A shooting on Ranch Drive left four wounded, including a 16-year-old boy, which police also said was possibly gang related.
The religious leaders said they want to be part of the solution by joining together.
"We believe you've dispatched the angels and the answers are already on their way," said the Rev. Shirley Sparks of Walls Memorial Chapel AME Zion Church.
The Rev. Cedric Brock, pastor of Mt. Nebo Church and president of the Interdenominational Minister's Alliance, said the youth need to know there is a way out from the violence and that many of the people who want to help pull them out of the danger were once in their shoes.
"Some of us were involved and someone pulled us out," Pastor Brock said. "We want to pull them out."
Pastor Brock, in April, 2010, buried his cousin, 20-year-old Darrin Smith, who was fatally shot on Grand Avenue, allegedly by Michael Taylor, 18. Pastor Brock said he delivered the eulogy at the funeral.
The city shouldn't have to bury any more of its young people, Pastor Anthony said.
"We don't want to bury your children and grandchildren," he said during the prayer vigil.
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