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Prayer service calls for peace in wake of recent violence

| Friday, July 15, 2016

Heads bowed and hands clasped, members of the Notre Dame and South Bend community gathered Thursday evening at the Grotto for a prayer service in response to recent acts of violence across the United States.

Despite the reduced number of people on campus for the summer session, an estimated 100 students, faculty, staff and other members of the community came together to pray for peace exactly one week after the sniper attack in Dallas that killed five police officers and barely more than a week after the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, both shot by police.

“Everything is not well with America. The blood of innocent men share the streets with us and we weep with their grieving families, long for justice with their fatherless children and distraught wives,” student body president Corey Robinson, who spoke at the service, said.

“There is a way of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness,” he said. “ … A way that is both pro-Black Lives Matter and pro-law enforcement. A way that is not divided by political ties and prejudice, but is rather united by the faith in a common interest — and that’s love for each other.”

In addition to Robinson, representatives from Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP), Campus Ministry, the Office of Human Resources and the Office of Institutional Equity spoke at the service.

Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion, said the purpose of the prayer service was not “to take sides or to point fingers,” but rather to spread a message of love.

“We hope that love overcomes hate, that ignorance will be conquered by intelligence and that fear is replaced by understanding,” Love said.

However, Love also said he worries “things are going to get worse before they get better.”

“We can’t reach our full potential until all of our citizens are valued equally,” he said.

Following Love, NSDP chief Keri Kei Shibata spoke, emphasizing the need for constant solidarity in bringing about peace.

“On both the good and bad days, all of us in the Notre Dame community must remember that we all need each other,” Shibata said. “We cannot be successful without one another. We cannot have the kind of community that we want to have without every one of us doing our part.”

Like Shibata, Fr. Joe Corpora, associate director of Latino student ministry, said in order to confront violence and racial tension, people must first recognize their commonality instead of emphasizing their differences.

“People just might relate to each other as human to human rather than documented to undocumented, Christian to non-Christian, athlete to student, Anglo to Latino, rich to poor, gay to straight — all these kind of divisions that we sort of make up,” Corpora said.

Karrah Miller, director of the Office of Institutional Equity and campus Title IX Coordinator, concluded the service by thanking all those in attendance, including representatives of the South Bend community, such as South Bend Fire Department chief Steve Cox and South Bend Police Department uniform chief Jeff Rynearson. Representatives from the mayor’s office were also in attendance.

“I do not know all of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of those that we have lost in recent weeks,” Miller said. “Nor should I or anyone else make assumptions or pass judgment about the circumstances surrounding those deaths and those great tragedies. But what I do know is that I am a part of a campus community that is committed to fairness and equity not only in our nation but across the world, not only in our campus community but in our greater community. … Our presence here today is a testament to our collective desire to see things change for the better, and I commend all of us for being here.”

Miller said there will be a vigil and march for justice and solidarity Sunday beginning at 7 p.m. on Irish Green.

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