Posted on February 24, 2013 at 11:01 PM
NEW ORLEANS - Inside a place dedicated to peace, hundreds gathered to speak out against violence Sunday.
Imani, which describes itself as a group of young leaders in black Catholic parishes and high schools, organized a Mass against violence hosted by St. Katharine Drexel Church in Central City.
“They're losing peers, family friends, whoever, in the streets due to violence every day,” said Ansel Augustine, coordinator of Black Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
“One of my brothers closest friends got killed in an accident and he was shot to death,” said Quinta Alveris, a senior at Knight’s Academy in Harvey.
For many young people like Alveris, the mass was a way of finding strength.
“It's hard seeing my brother. Never seen a man cry so deeply for his friend,” said Alveris.
The Mass is a first for the group, which normally organizes an event such as a revival each year.
“We all need to come together as one and be in peace,” said Kobe Robinson, a freshman at St. Augustine High School
Since Friday, at least eight people have been shot in New Orleans, including a police officer responding to an armed robbery Saturday morning in the 9th Ward. One of the shooting victims died on the scene Friday; the other seven were injured.
Sunday, young people carried signs with the names of loved ones who have been lost to violence, placing them below a statue of the Virgin Mary during the Mass.
“I think whatever we can do in our own way to help to resolve the violence that is crippling us, not only in our city but in our world, I think it's a good thing and hopefully we all want to be involved in that,” said Shelton Fabre, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
The young people hope the Mass will open up a dialogue and send a message to their peers.
“It has to stop. The violence has to stop,” said Alveris.
“In the black community, we suffer very much because of the violence in the streets, and I think it's important to get the black Catholic community involved, because in all things, when we're reminded that we're in this together, it doesn't seem so overwhelming,” said Fabre.