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PC(USA) Office of Public Witness to take part in Washington march against gun violence

LOUISVILLE (PNS) — Last week, thousands of high school students across the country took part in a 17-minute walk out demanding stricter gun laws. This week, the Office of Public Witness (OPW) will participate in the “March for Our Lives” along the streets of the nation’s capital.

The Shoe Memorial organized in memory of the 7,000 children who have lost their lives since Sandy Hook to gun violence. (Photo by Jamila Cervantes)

“This is one of the most important actions of advocacy to be held in recent years. One, because it addresses the destruction that gun violence has upon this country. Also, that sensible gun legislation is needed and Congress must act to rein in the availability of automatic weapons,” said the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, OPW director. “Most importantly, we have been inspired by witnessing our young people from around this country stand up and demand an end to gun violence in our schools and streets.”

March for Our Lives was organized by students in response to the recent shootings at high schools across the country, specifically the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead last month. Most of the student activity has involved confronting federal and state lawmakers about banning weapons like the gun used in Parkland.

“Their actions are passionate, their words prophetic. They are unafraid, unintimidated, compassionate and committed. Many of them are of the Christian faith, with Presbyterians in their midst. I visited a North Carolina congregation and afterward one of the teenagers said to me in the presence of his mother, ‘I want to go,’” said Hawkins. “Our young people are putting before us a challenge that we as adults must accept. To put our faith into action and demand an end to the preventable acts of violence tearing apart families and communities. This is a ‘March for Our Lives.’ Our children are depending upon us.”

Students gather outside the U.S. Capitol on March 14, calling for stricter gun laws. (Photo by Jamila Cervantes)

“Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and now Parkland. Mass shootings have become a deadly pattern in American life and we as Presbyterians must faithfully interrupt that pattern,” said Nora Leccese, OPW’s associate for domestic poverty and environmental issues. “We also recognize that students in communities of color have been organizing to end gun violence for decades with little notice.”

The interfaith community in Washington, D.C. is planning a prayer vigil at Washington National Cathedral the night before from 7 to 9pm.

“On the morning of the March 24, Presbyterians will be gathering at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church at 11am, and then marching together to the noon rally on Pennsylvania Avenue,” said Leccese. “We hope to see large numbers at the church and the rally itself.”

Leccese says they know of at least three buses of Presbyterians coming to Washington to participate, one from Virginia, two from Pennsylvania. She estimates several hundred will be at New York Avenue for the four-block walk to the noon rally.

“People are really galvanized around this issue,” said Leccese. “It’s a beautiful moment to see long-time activists who have been speaking out on this issue for years, coming together with advocates who’s first march was last Wednesday. The defining quality is excitement and engagement.”

The 219th General Assembly (2010) adopted the resolution “Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call.” It encourages churches to become informed and active in gun violence prevention, provide pastoral care for victims and seek a spiritual response of grief and repentance.

by Rick Jones, Presbyterian News Service