NEWARK, Del. — Chanting “We are one. We have each other’s backs,” members of Newark’s various faith communities came together Sunday to promote diversity and call for an end to gun violence.
Held at Calvary Baptist Church on Delaware Avenue, the interfaith vigil was organized in the wake of the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio earlier this month. In El Paso, a white nationalist gunman targeting immigrants opened fire in a Walmart, killing 22 people. Less than a day later, a gunman killed nine people outside a bar in Dayton.
While the vigil had been planned well in advance, it took place just 12 hours after a man was killed and another was wounded in a shooting at the Red Roof Inn on South College Avenue.
“There was someone shot just here in Newark just last night,” the Rev. Corey Fields, pastor of Calvary Baptist, told the crowd. “And so we gather in concern for violence and in concern for each other.”
Fields said that in one sense, vigils like the one Sunday — and similar gatherings the Newark faith community has organized after other mass shootings — can seem futile.
“Yet a gathering like this also says something powerful and eternal,” he said. “A gathering like this says that we all share a desire to live in peace, and that we do not accept the status quo. A gathering like this says that even though our religious and political beliefs may differ, we are all beloved children and we are all fellow travelers on the sometimes treacherous journey of life.”
Charito Calvachi-Mateyko, from the Delaware Hispanic Commission, said Latinos are hurting in the wake of the El Paso shooting and President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“You need to know what a difference you have created here today for Latinos,” Calvachi-Mateyko told the crowd. “You all need to know we feel you are holding us in the midst of shock and trauma.
She gave a blistering rebuke of Trump, who she described as “the distractor-in-chief” intent on using divisive policies and language to distract the American people from other controversies.
“Mr. President, against all your distractions, against all the negativity you incite, we have something to tell you: We are one. We have each other’s backs,” she said.
Irfan Patel told the crowd that he came on behalf of the Islamic Society of Delaware to express sympathy for the victims in El Paso, Dayton and of all gun violence.
“More than that, I’m standing here today as a concerned citizen of this nation, against the backdrop of all this senseless violence and killing of innocent lives that were wasted by these senseless acts of violence, violence that was and is rooted in deep hatred towards those who look different,” Patel said.
State Rep. Paul Baumbach attended the vigil wearing a large red F pinned on his lapel, proudly showing off the grade the National Rifle Association gave his voting record on gun issues.
“We live in dangerous times, but the danger isn’t from career criminals. Crime has fallen steadily over the past 20 years,” Baumbach said. “The danger is tied to guns. In Dayton, Ohio, the gunman shot 26 people in 32 seconds. His firearm had a 100-round magazine.”
He called for “common-sense” gun control and urged the crowd to reject bigotry and white supremacy.
“Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that,” he said. “So we’re here today, we’re here together. We’re here united to stand up for love, to stand up for light, to stand up against racism, to stand up against white supremacy, to stand up for people and communities of color, to stand up against isolationism, to stand up against nationalism and to stand up against an unchecked gun culture. Do not let darkness consume you, do not let hate consume you, do not let hopelessness consume you.”