CHICAGO — South Side pastors are among 130 clergy leaders who will hold a citywide prayer vigil on Friday for murder victims.
The Rev. James Meeks said he organized the vigil to bring attention to gun violence and to honor last year's homicide victims.
Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church in the Pullman neighborhood, said he got the idea while teaching a Bible class Feb. 6.
"I prayed to God that he cut the number of homicides that occurred in January to half, and he did," Meeks said. "That's when I decided not to stop there and to continue praying for fewer murders. Before you know it, my [15,000-member] congregation had joined me in praying that murders be cut in half. I know asking God to prevent any more murders from occurring this year is unrealistic, but asking God to reduce the murder rate is very realistic."
So far this year there have been 41 homicides in January, 14 in February and 15 in March, according to Chicago police. In 2012, police recorded 515 homicides, with many of them occurring in South Side communities.
So at 7 p.m., Meeks and clergy from the West Side to the South Side are asking people who have lost loved ones to gun violence to pray with local pastors at the spot where their loved one was murdered. Meeks will be at 111th Street and Michigan Avenue in Roseland.
"I will be there, and God will be there. We invite not only friends and family of homicide victims but anyone who needs prayer," he added.
Bishop Larry Trotter, pastor of Sweet Holy Spirit Church in South Chicago, will be at 1600 E. 91st St.
"Doing God's work is never easy, but necessary if we are to deliver people from hell and help them into the kingdom of God," Trotter said. "This prayer vigil is personal to me because I lost six members to gun violence in 2012."
Flora Suttle, a retired Chicago police officer, said she plans to join Trotter at the vigil.
"I could use some prayer after losing my son," said Suttle, who lives in the South Chicago neighborhood. "I am raising my 17-year-old granddaughter, and doing the best I can, considering her father was murdered."
Her son, Derrick Suttle, 47, was killed in February 2012, in the 7700 block of South Chappel Avenue by an off-duty police officer after police said Suttle tried to run over the officer with a van.
The Rev. Roosevelt Watkins, pastor of Bethlehem Star Missionary Baptist Church in the Burnside neighborhood on the South Side, will be at 9200 S. Cottage Grove Ave., which is across the street from his church.
"These are our youth being killed out here on these streets. Unfortunately, someone is being killed somewhere in this world as we speak," Watkins said. "My goal is to pray for and pray with as many people as I can in this community."
To find prayer locations in your neighborhood, call Salem Baptist Church at 773-371-2300.