Pray and prevent violence


Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 2:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 2:39 p.m.

I write this letter with a challenged heart, knowing that there are 20 children who will never open their holiday gifts, never see their stockings hanging over the fireplace and never anticipate Santa coming to their house.

My question is what can we do to prevent this from happening?

This is the question that is plaguing the minds of many across our nation. As the president of People Against Violence Enterprises Inc., or PAVE, I want to challenge us to pray more. The Bible suggests that we pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).

While I am not sure of the statistics, it is evident that incidents such as this are occurring more since prayer has been taken out of schools. However, what can we do now?

Well, prayers can reach where we cannot. If you believe in the power of prayer, then pray. The Bible says that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). I believe that prayer makes a difference, changes the atmosphere and gives us all hope.

What else can we do? We can help lobby for government funding to be spent more on things that help prevent these horrible incidents. For example, putting more emphasis on violence prevention through education and rallies, supporting mental health services, encouraging the use of gun locks, tightening the reins on who can buy weapons through a more extensive and diligent qualifying process, teaching conflict resolution and ensuring that each of our schools is properly secured with the onsite presence of law enforcement.

Here, in our fair city of Gainesville, we have been fortunate not to have had a major incident. In 2000, several school shootings occurred in the U.S., including the tragedy in Columbine, Colo.

In response to the disturbing trends, I asked the Lord what I could do to prevent anything like this from happening. In response, I launched the first Stop the Violence Rally under the auspices of PAVE. Meridian Behavioral Healthcare immediately partnered with PAVE, and then other entities jumped on board, like the office of the State Attorney, the city of Gainesville, Alachua County, the Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff's office, Black on Black Crime Task Force, WTMG Magic 101.3 FM, WCJB TV 20 and the Gainesville Sun.

Since then, more entities have joined the efforts, like Alachua County Public Schools, Leadership Gainesville, and many other partners.

Cohesiveness is alive in our community. I had the pleasure of attending a COPS conference last year with GPD. The theme was "Collaboration ... Working Together." There were many representatives from different cities around the U.S. sharing how they are working together to dispel the increase in violent crimes in their areas. What I realized was that a lot of the cities were just starting to do it, not because there is a definite attribute to being unified, but because of limited financial resources. However, I am glad that other cities, just like Gainesville, are working cohesively to prevent violence.

Even with all of our efforts, I can truly say that we still have strides to go in North Central Florida, but I am proud of our entities deciding to come together 14 years ago, even when the economy was much better, because they saw the vision God had placed in my heart and recognized and reacted to the need.

In closing, I will personally continue to rally for peace and justice in our area and abroad, but I cannot do it alone. I want to encourage everyone to think of the 26 innocent victims of the Connecticut school shooting — which includes 20 kindergarten and first-grade babies who will never open their holiday gifts, never see their stockings hanging over the fireplace and never anticipate Santa coming to their house — and get involved in some way to safeguard the futures of our innocent children and our heroic school staff.

In the meantime, take time out to hug, kiss and pray over your babies and other loved ones each day.

Shalom.

Pastor Karl "The Rev." Anderson is founder and president of People Against Violence Enterprises Inc. and senior co-pastor of Upper Room Church of God in Christ.

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