Pastor: 'We've Got to Take Measures To Save Our Young People'
Victory for the World Church pastor Kenneth Samuel talks to Patch about his hopes for the Summit on Youth Violence and Prayer Vigil Wednesday night, nearly two weeks after a shoot-out in the church parking lot that left two people dead.
It was a tragedy that Kenneth Samuel said he'd never before witnessed in some 30 years of pastoring: police say two men fatally shot each other, and two others were injured, in the parking lot of Victory for the World Church after a funeral earlier this month.
"We have reached an all-time low when people open fire in the sacred space of the church," Samuel told Stone Mountain-Redan Patch Tuesday.
On Wednesday, June 20, Samuel hopes for community healing and solutions from faith leaders, elected officials and concerned citizens during the Summit on Youth Violence and Prayer Vigil at the church, from 7-9 p.m.
"We've got to capture and help to guide the thinking of young people in regard to what options are available to them, and provide options that will be viable alternatives to gang involvement and violence," Samuel said. "We've got to take measures, take steps, take actions to save our young people."
He also said the tragedy "has refocused our attention on the growing plight of violence among youth from delinquency, particularly the peril that young black men are in in our comunity."
At the funeral of homicide victim Ryan Guider earlier this month, Samuel noted that among the 500-600 in attendance, "so many" were teens and adolescents. He was moved to speak to them about valuing life and staying connected to caring communities.
"I think the majority of the young people were listening, but apparently not enough," Samuel said.
Guider's June 7 service and the reverend's words were soon overshadowed by the shootings. DeKalb County police said 19-year-old Carlos Henderson, Jr. of Ellenwood and 28-year-old Delmetrius Heard of Decatur shot each other in the incident. One man died at the scene, the other on the way to the hospital, police said.
The incident said something about what's happening with many other youth, Samuel said: "We're dealing with a growing sense of hopelessness."
There are young people turning to gangs "for identity, for protection. Nothing else seems workable, viable," Samuel said. "That's why the task [of helping them] has got to be approached from so many levels."
As part of the Southwest Atlanta community, we know how senseless the violence can be and how it hurts an entire community. If you can, please try to attend the summit and bring any teenagers and pre-teens with you because we all need to refocus our energies on doing good and stopping the violence.