Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fewer Turn out to Pray for Peace; the Sequel to Last Year's Day of Faith Had Similar Crime-Related Concerns

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fewer Turn out to Pray for Peace; the Sequel to Last Year's Day of Faith Had Similar Crime-Related Concerns

Article excerpt

Byline: ADAM AASEN

First Baptist Church downtown was buzzing Saturday afternoon with people speaking in tongues, quietly mumbling prayers and crying as they lifted their hands toward the sky. The sounds all melded together at the day of faith anti-violence rally as at least 1,000 people prayed out loud, all for different things.

"Please keep our children safe at school, Lord."

"Stop the violence, God, just stop the violence."

"Give our leaders wisdom and strength."

Different prayers, different faiths and different races, but everyone at this year's day of faith - now called "It's Time to Pray, Jacksonville" - had the same goal of ending violent crime in the city.

Church leaders banded together to hold the event, which started last year as a response to rising crime.

This year's event wasn't sponsored by the Mayor's Office to avoid constitutional issues that arose last year.

The city is on pace to surpass the 2006 homicide total of 138, despite all of the efforts and attention to the problem. There have been more homicides, but there were far fewer people at this year's day of prayer. Around 6,000 attended last year.

Mayor John Peyton spoke at the event, making sure to clarify he was a "visitor, not a sponsor" and recalling the death of 8-year-old DreShawna Davis by a stray bullet on Mother's Day 2006. Peyton talked about several initiatives started in response, such as the gun bounty program, community outreach and more officers on the street. But he said the response with the greatest impact was the 2006 Day of Faith.

"We stood united as a community and said this will not be tolerated," he said.

Saturday's event was a "who's who" of the city's Christian church leaders, but there wasn't a noticeable representation from the Muslim or Jewish communities, although organizers said all were invited. Sheriff John Rutherford also was not in attendance. Lauri-Ellen Smith, special assistant to the sheriff, said he was out of town on business.

Songs of worship were performed and church leaders each had calls for prayer on different topics: victims, terrorism, families, schools, children, unity and revival. …

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