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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Faith leaders call for Norwich to pray, unite and take action to fight racism

    About 100 members of the faithful and clergy from the Norwich Area Clergy Association gather Wednesday, June 10, 2020, on Chelsea Parade for a prayer vigil. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Norwich — After the protests and shouting subside, people need to turn to God and faith, which can bring communities together to work for peace and unity, religious leaders representing more than a dozen faiths told a gathering of about 100 people at a prayer vigil Wednesday.

    “We will lead you in prayer and we will say prayer, because ... this is all that we know to bring at this time,” Rabbi Julius Rabinowitz, president of the Norwich Area Clergy Association, said at the start of the hourlong outdoor program at Chelsea Parade.

    The vigil was planned in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man, who suffocated beneath the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and the boisterous protests nationwide calling for justice and racial equality. Speakers quoted the Bible, the Koran and religious leaders past and present. They asked God to bless police, and to bless and guide Chauvin and his family.

    The Rev. David Holland, pastor of the Cornerstone City Church in Norwich, said his prayers go out to Norwich police, because of the stress they are under.

    “You wake up in the morning and you put on a badge,” Holland said. “You’re men and women just like us. We need to understand that.”

    Holland said he wants Norwich to come together in peace under the rose, which he called a peaceful symbol.

    “Let’s not just come here today and talk this good talk,” Holland said. “There are a lot of clergy here today. Let’s link up and come together and see what we can do. There are a lot of small churches in Norwich. Every small church can’t do nothing, but I tell you what, if we come together, become one church, and we can do a lot for this community.”

    Rev. Jerry Davis, pastor of the Tabernacle of Deliverance and Praise, roused the audience to respond to her prayers, saying “I like a talk-back church,” eliciting applause and cheers.

    “What the enemy has brought for our bad, (God) will turn it around for our good,” she said.

    The Rev. Lynell Axson, pastor of Evans Memorial AME Zion Church, led a chorus of “We Shall Overcome.”

    Swaranjit Singh Khalsa of the Sikh said faith is so important because it gives people hope and courage to speak against injustice. He said representatives of all faiths came as one group to stand, and raise their voices, against injustice.

    The audience applauded when Khalsa said the city should come together in dialogue and hear stories of minorities. He urged education in schools, with a curriculum that recognizes ethnic and religious diversity.

    “We still see some people showing un-American behavior,” Khalsa said, “and I think they need to get that message that they are alone, and we are together.”

    Singh said no one can deny that racism exists, “even at the top level,” in the country but said people can defeat that by standing together. He said politicians sometimes say they know their cities and towns and don’t have problems and don’t need to take action.

    “No,” Khalsa said, “You don’t know.” He said they don’t put their feet in the shoes of the man who is a minority or the man who is of color. “You don’t understand. We need to talk about racism.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

    Judith Bassem and her daughter Gabriella, 7, listen and pray Wednesday, June 10, 2020, as about 100 of the faithful and clergy from the Norwich Area Clergy Association gather on Chelsea Parade for a prayer vigil. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Members of the Norwich Area Clergy Association gather with about 100 of the faithful Wednesday, June 10, 2020, on Chelsea Parade for a prayer vigil. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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