Black clergy to hold a peace summit

Efforts to cease the violence that took the lives of nearly 60 youth within the last two years and keep youth engaged in positive activities, will top the agenda today at a peace summit organized by Clergy Coalition for Peace. Unofficial statistics from C

That is down considerably from the previous weekend where more than three dozen shootings ravaged the South and West Sides, leaving nine dead. The clergy’s summit, similar to a private meeting recently held by Mayor Richard M. Daley, will address ways the faith community can keep youth out of harm’s way and how to stop the illegal gun flow in the city.

Today’s 10 a.m. meeting will take place at St. Stevens A.M.E. Church, 2251 W. Washington Blvd. But, clerics who continuously invite youth in their churches, and who have been at the forefront of their communities when turmoil erupts, were not on the mayor’s invite list, and felt shut out, Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church said.

Calling the slight a “big disappointment,” Acree also said it was not a surprise. “We’re allies of the people instead of allies of the mayor,” the West Side minister said of the coalition that is made up of about five religious organizations including the Baptists Pastors Fellowship, Baptist Ministers Conference, Clergy Speaks Interdenominational, LEADER’s Network and Pastors United For Change.

Once the ministers from the newly formed coalition heard about the meeting, and all realized they were not on the list, they set out to have their own anti-violence solution summit. And, based on television news accounts about the mayor’s meeting, Daley was repetitive, said Acree, who also is a member of the LEADER’s Network.

Another member of the clergy coalition chalked up the meeting to simple politics. “In the end, the emergency gun summit was great political strategy for the mayor, but until he comes to the table ready to invest some of our city’s resources, he can keep the speeches and the donuts,” said Rev. Steve Jones, president of the Baptist Pastors Conference of Chicago.

“His greatest contribution to date is to scold parents, convene select clergy and to lobby the legislature for new gun laws,” Acree said. Daley said society is dealing with a sense that guns can solve problems, and that gun manufacturers are bigger than life. Common sense gun legislation is what is needed, the mayor opines. Acree and his network agreed, but said it won’t solve the problem for firearms already in circulation.

The mayor held the private meeting April 25 at City Hall with about 20 representatives from churches, community organizations, police and school officials. Daley challenged businesses, social organizations and churches to open their doors and give the youth an alternative to the streets.

Rev. Johnny Miller, said of the meeting, “It was just the start of a plan for action. It was for us to share what we all are doing, and what has and hasn’t worked. It was a good first meeting.” Miller is pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. Daley said his office received calls from people who were not invited to his meeting, and was “encouraged” that they wanted to attend, but stressed that the meeting was the first of many to come about the issue.

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