By Billie K. Fidlin, Director of Outreach Ministries for the Desert Southwest Conference
In the early morning hours of June 2, the Conference Gun Violence Task Force Chairperson, Gerry Hills, and I had a task before us. Pairs of survivor and victim’s shoes were unpacked, and we encircled a tree with the shoes, each with a card sharing the pair’s story. We silently placed the shoes, from a pair of Gabby Gifford’s to the tiniest white shoes of a child. Lives… all touched by gun violence.
The Desert Southwest Conference Gun Violence Task Force and the Arizona Faith Network organized the memorial. We were accompanied by other allied partners such as the youth leadership from March for Our Lives, and Moms Demand Action. Held on the State Capitol grounds in Phoenix, over 200 people, many wearing orange, stood on the Senate lawn to hear a diverse interfaith group of speakers. Survivors, faith leaders, advocates for gun safety – all there to say that we remember the voices who are now silenced, and pray for all that is needed to calm the increasingly violent times we find ourselves in.
Rev. Beth Rambikur, our Conference Director of Connectional Ministries, gave an impassioned speech, as did Dr. Jannah Scott, Interim Director of the Arizona Faith Network. As always, DSC Gun Violence Awareness Chair, Gerry Hills, spoke eloquently about her late brother Adam, an off-duty officer who died in this manner. Interfaith prayers, stories of the lost and wounded, pleas for our world to be one of peace.
Yes, there were protestors, at times aggressive in their comments. Thank you to the twelve Maricopa County sheriffs who were present with us to make sure things remained calm. We are grateful for the multitude of media that covered the event.
Thank you to our United Methodist clergy and laity who came out that day to support the memorial. There was a strong United Methodist attendance, one that honored our history of justice response and ministry of presence, as well as our bishop’s call to action www.dscumc.org/2015/10/call-to-action-against-gun-violence.
In organizing terms, we have an ASK for all of us, as well as others we know and those we don’t, to participate in a letter-writing campaign via emails or mail. For just a few moments of your time, you too can encourage our country’s leadership to help our state and nation become more peaceful. Click on the green button below to learn more about our campaign, “Interfaith Letters 4 Peace.”
Please share this link www.interfaithletters4peace.org with friends, family, and colleagues. We look to be 5,000 letters strong!