Ministers urge day of prayer for nonviolence

September 19, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A coalition of ministers representing black churches in the Baltimore region yesterday called for a "day of prayer and fasting" on Oct. 13 to highlight the violence that besets the community.

Led by the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in West Baltimore, the ministers called on people to take that Monday off work and gather at churches, synagogues or mosques at noon for prayer.

"This plan comes out of our concern for the pervasive and escalating problem of violence and poverty and the politics of exclusion in Baltimore city and county," Reid said at a news conference attended by about a dozen ministers at Bethel AME Church.

Reid said the idea for the day of prayer and fasting came to him after he participated in marches led by religious leaders and community activists in the wake of the Aug. 9 shooting of James Quarles III by Officer Charles M. Smothers II outside Lexington Market. The shooting, which was videotaped by a bystander and played repeatedly on television, prompted outrage among many the black community who contend that Quarles was not

threatening the officer when he was shot. Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy declined last week to pursue criminal charges against the officer.

"While I was [at the marches], it became clear that whether you agree with the police, whether you agree with the Quarles family and the community, this was a great tragedy and a tragedy that is calling our city together," Reid said. "We may not be able to agree on all social policies, but we can agree there is something wrong in our city, and if we call the spiritual leadership of our city together and open our churches on that day and pray, it will be the beginning of change in our city."

Reid also called on people to drive with their headlights on that day. He asked that on Oct. 13, schools teach a curriculum that emphasizes character development, radio stations play uplifting

music and community organizations arrange membership sign-ups and voter registration.

Oct. 13 is Columbus Day and state offices will be closed, as will Baltimore City and many county offices. Most schools, however, will be open.

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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