Peace Walk to unify faith groups, students in Columbia

By Jessica Connor

COLUMBIA—United Methodists will join the community in a Peace Walk next month organized by the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence.

The walk is designed to bring together diverse groups within Columbia to look at nonviolent ways of coexistence and begin community dialogue about this, as well as teach safe and responsible use of guns.

“Basically we want to get the community thinking about ways in which we take advantage of guns and the resulting use of guns, which is violence and death,” said Kathy Handel, chair of the Peace Walk and member of Washington Street United Methodist Church, Columbia.

The walk is set for Saturday, Nov. 8, beginning at Zion Baptist Church on Washington Street in Columbia, and ending with a rally at the State House. All are welcome to participate.

Handel said the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence is targeting outreach to faith groups, as well as students from four area colleges: Benedict, Allen, Columbia College and the University of South Carolina.

“We’re not so much into legislation but more into bonds and reaching out and pulling diverse populations together, because as faith groups we are not separate but unified,” Handel said. “It’s making a statement that we can live together without violence and have a nonviolent community.”

Those who participate will sign a pledge card committing, among other things, “to act non-violently within my family, community, state and nation.”

“We’re talking about change of heart as well as change of behavior,” Handel said.

Dr. John Dickey Evans, retired United Methodist pastor who chairs the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence, said the walk is a positive way of looking at nonviolence.

“We’re not focusing on anti-gun or anti-anything but instead being proactive to something that is having an enormous impact,” Evans said. “We’re hoping this effort will be an opportunity.”

Evans said they are hoping all 10 living faiths active in the Midlands will be a part of the Peace Walk, from Christianity and Judaism to Islam. They are planning to involve local choirs, as well as family members of gun violence victims.

One of the people the coalition has especially invited is Martha Childress, the USC student who was paralyzed by a stray bullet in Five Points last October, when she was 18.

They are also linking with area groups such as Moms Demand Action, the Palmetto Peace Alliance and more.

To participate in the walk, show up at 10 a.m. Nov. 8 to Zion Baptist, or pre-register: Email [email protected]; connect on Facebook at FaithCoalitionOnGunViolence; or stop by the Methodist Student Network on the USC campus at 728 Pickens Street, Columbia SC 29201. If you want to carry a poster during the Peace Walk, one can be made for you; simply email the text you desire two weeks in advance of the walk to [email protected].

About the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence

The Faith Coalition on Gun Violence, begun in Columbia following the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, seeks to bring members of faith communities together to work toward a reasonable course of action to reduce gun violence. Their mission is to raise awareness about the real impact of gun violence, promote gun safety and responsible gun ownership, educate the public about alternatives to conflict resolution and advocate for victims of gun violence and their families.

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