People listened to speeches, prayed and, for three minutes, they lay on the ground — all in a call to end gun violence.
The Interfaith Vigil and Lie-in call for reform to help end gun violence took place Monday in front of the Iredell County Government Building.
The purpose of the service was to honor and remember the UNCC students and Mooresville police officer who have recently lost their lives due to gun violence.
The vigil also reflected and took time to mourn over deaths of other schoolchildren killed due to mass shootings as well as deaths of Christians, Muslims and Jews at worship.
Many community members came with signs to hold saying, “No more violence end gun violence,” “End Gun Violence” and even one that showed the words “Thoughts and Prayers” marked through, with “Policy and Change” substituted underneath.
The event started with the Rev. Steve Shoemaker, pastor of Grace Baptist in Statesville, speaking on gun violence as many stood around him comforting one another.
“ We are not here to speak against gun owners or gun sellers, we are here to mourn and to call for common-sense gun reform that will help keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous persons,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker then prayed for all who are affected by the aftermath of these shootings as he stood under the government center entrance sign which reads “In God We Trust.”
The community members were then invited to lie in the grassy area in front of the building for three minutes.
The three minutes symbolized the ease with which a dangerous person can buy a gun; this was the time it took for the shooter of the 32 Virginia Tech students to buy the weapon he used in 2007.
With many of the community members lying silent on the lawn, the three minutes passed by. Three minutes might not seem long, but a lot can happen.
After the lie-in came to an end those in attendance stood as four more speakers talked about their thoughts and feelings about the gun violence.
“ The number of hate crimes have escalated to a level that is well beyond eye-opening and tragic in a country that was founded on the principles of liberty, justice and freedom for all,” Beverly Maurice, the president of Congregation Emanuel in Statesville said.
Maurice continued a powerful speech, having community members questioning why.
“ We have reached a point where there is no rhyme or reason for the deaths of too many victims. A neighborhood police officer during a routine traffic stop, students at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, the 60-year-old woman in Poway, California, the 40 victims of an anti-Muslim shootings of the two mosques in New Zealand,” Maurice said.
“ Who were these victims? Students, dentists, doctors, disabled people, retired people, old people, young people, people doing their job of keeping us safe. What is going wrong with our world,” Maurice said.
The next speaker kept his speech brief but expressed his related feelings to this topic as a family man.
“ I have three school-age children – three,” Pastor James Brunson Sr. of First Baptist Church said.
Brunson stated that he shows his kids love every morning because they live in a world where they might go to school and not return home the next day.
“ How many more kids, how many more students do we have to lose,” Brunson said as he called for common-sense gun reform. “When are we going to start using common sense?”
Tamir Mutakabbir, imam of Al-mu’minun which means “The Believers,” also experienced a heartbreaking event with his grandchild.
“ Granddaddy I don’t want to go to school, I don’t want to go to college,” Mutakabbir recalled.
After hearing these remarks, Mutakabbir, immediately stopped the vehicle he was driving to hear the concerns of his grandchild who apparently did not want to go to school due to being scared due to gun violence.
Mutakabbir is still looking for the change that will help the community and citizens like his grandchild who is scared. “To be interfaith, interracial – we have to come together. We have to change the culture by changing the language.”
Changing the language starts with reaching out and talking to others of all faiths to help benefit the community and communities like Statesville, Mutakabbir stated.
The last speaker was not a faith leader but a mother, who expressed concern for her biracial son and his walk through life.
“ I speak today as a mother,” Andora Nicholson said. “What does it say about us that our youth know more about active shooter drills than they do about addressing an envelope. I am not anti-gun, I am anti-grieving mother, father, daughter… I am anti-needless, senseless violence”
These words resonated with all the community members as they followed Nicholson’s speech with a moment of silence before leaving in peace and good will.
May 21, 2019
Additional Photos: (Photo Credit: Ross Kiefer, Statesville Record and Landmark)