“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
Against the raging tide, against the forces of evil — as the golden evening sunlight on the first Friday of summer yields to darkness and shadows in Auburn Gresham, where the streetlights illuminate this faithful trail of prayer warriors — they march.
Led by a young Black man, hoisting a giant cross, emblazoned with “Demand Justice” on one side and “Stop Shooting” on the other, they march. West on 79th Street and beyond, through this South Side business thoroughfare and turning down tree-lined streets, they walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
“I will fear no evil; for thou art with me…”
They march, the Faith Community of St. Sabina — an invasion of Christian believers, having accepted this divine mission to be violence interrupters. Their fight is a supernatural one, using earthly tools, including the microphone through which Father Michael L. Pfleger invokes a call for peace.
Marchers — young and old, even a man on crutches — respond in unison as music spills from a green SUV. Songs of fight, encouragement and freedom:
Public Enemies’ “Fight The Power.” Bob Marley’s “War.” Kendrick Lamar’s “We Gon Be Alright.” Tupac’s “Changes” and John Legend and Common’s “Glory.”
They march — flashing the peace sign as motorists honk, and people along the route spill from local businesses and houses in support, smiling, waving, crying.
They march in St. Sabina’s annual “Friday Night Peace Walks,” held Fridays from the start of summer until the end, and beginning at 7 p.m., at the church, except on July 2, when St. Sabina hosted its “Block Party.”
Some carry signs: “Honk 4 Peace” and “Pray for Peace.” Others lift portraits of murdered sons and daughters.
Their appeal is to a higher power to intervene in the invisible realm, where public policy, policing strategies and economic revitalization plans — all vital and necessary — have no power. They march to invoke a spiritual shift. To spark reverberations of hope and peace in the intangible atmosphere that might invariably alter evil’s manifestations in this world. That might transform hearts, minds, their community.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world…”
So they march — against the gates of hell, calling upon the name of the Lord. Spiritually intervening for a community, for a people, for a city besieged by mass shootings and murder. The killing of our babies. The slaying of old ladies.
Against chaos. Gunfire by day, at evening and into the night. Headlines chronicle the foreboding battle between darkness and light.
“At least 77 people shot in weekend violence in Chicago, including 17 in two mass shootings.”
“Infant among 5 shot in Englewood”
So they pray. And they march, stepping intently, pounding through these humidity-thick streets, where tears, blood and violence flow. In a brutal city, where the winds of murder blow cold here, especially in summer, and where bullets tear bodies asunder. They chant:
“Peace up… Guns down…”
“We want peace… We want peace… We want peace!”
“Save our babies… Save our babies… Save our babies!”
They march, emboldened by the Holy Spirit and compelled by the agony of a city where hearse wheels carrying the bodies of murdered children never cease. Out here, in these streets, where neighborhoods on the other side of the tracks know no peace.
As I stand here in the midst of them, I can hear the naysayers’ and unbelievers’ jagged whispers in the wind: “What’s all that marching and praying going to do?”
With nearly 11 people shot every day in Chicago so far this year, my response is: “What in hell are you going to do?”
Against the gates of hell, they march.
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