“We’ve always had violence in Chicago, but never this bad.”
Those are the words of Antonio Rocquemore, senior pastor at Powerhouse International Ministries of Chicago after another deadly weekend in Chicago left 6 dead and 62 wounded from gunfire. Of the victims, 11 are under the age of 18 years old.
Pastors and community activists are calling people to prayer in the face of this increased wave of violence in Chicago. Perhaps most shockingly is the number of children impacted by this violence. This year nearly 300 kids have been shot and at least 36 of them have died.
Bishop Larry Trotter told those in attendance plainly that “the killing must stop.”
The event was organized by Tiffany Renee Warren, who told local news outlets she chose to organize a prayer event because “there’s power in unity and there’s power in prayer.”
ABC in Chicago reported on the prayer event.
According to CBS Chicago, kids as young as 12 have been killed and one teenager was shot while walking his dog.
Early Monday morning, a 16-year-old boy was shot while walking his dog in the South Austin neighborhood.
Police said the shooting took place in the first block of South Leamington Avenue around 12:25 a.m. A driver got out of his car, approached the 16-year-old and shot him.
The teen was shot in the leg and is expected to recover.
This weekend total includes a 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed in the South Chicago neighborhood.
The 12-year-old was found at 10:30am, unresponsive.
Local news listed out all the shootings that happened over the weekend, and it is truly stunning as the list seems endless (view it HERE).
PASTOR’S FIGHT CHICAGO’S DEADLY GUN VIOLENCE WITH PRAYER, GOSPEL
For the last 20 years, Chicago has seen an unending wave of violence.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, between 2001 – 2020 more people were killed in the Windy City than in the combined military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Spiritual leaders in the city are joining together hoping to change that narrative. Their weapon is the power of the Gospel.
Pastor Dimas Salaberrios, a former drug dealer from New York, knows firsthand the reality of gun violence. After fasting forty days for an end to the violence, he felt compelled to take America where it happens in his film, Chicago: America’s Hidden War.
Salaberrios spent two years filming in the city and told CBN News what he sees happening there is a spiritual battle.
“I would say in Chicago there is definitely a demonic presence that I sense when I’m praying and interacting with people on the street,” explained Salaberrios.
Pastor Corey Brooks, who heads a ministry in Chicago called Project Hood, agrees with Salaberrios.
“There’s a real spiritual battle going on in the city of Chicago for the lives of people,” said Brooks. “There seems to be a spirit of murder throughout the city.”
Brooks explained how evil works its way into the lives of young people there.
“Some of it is gang-related,” said Brooks. “You have a bunch of splinter groups who are part of organizations. And these splinter groups go from block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood, and it makes things very difficult.”
Children are among the many victims.
“We’re halfway through the year and over a hundred children have been shot already,” said Salaberrios. We have a child in our film, Quincy, who sleeps under his bed because he feels like he can get shot. He realizes from the bullet holes on the walls of his house from many drive-bys in the neighborhood that are the level of his bed – if he slept in his bed – he would be shot.”
That paralysis of fear is spreading.
“We have a lot of parents who are leery about just allowing their children to go out and play,” said Brooks.
The deadly violence has also had an impact on the city’s economy.
“We had a McDonalds, of all things, to close because of the violence,” explained Brooks. “I’ve done so many funerals, unfortunately. You know, too many to even count.”
Salaberrios’ documentary, which became eligible for an Academy Award earlier this year, showcases how the church is combating the darkness through prayer and evangelism.
“They’re having marches, going door to door. They’re doing things they have not normally done,” said Brooks.
Through his ministry, Brooks reaches out directly to gang members.
“We have a violence prevention team of ten full-time employees that go out into the neighborhood to help make sure there is no retaliation for violence. To make sure that we have conflict resolution with individuals who participate in that type of lifestyle,” Brooks commented.
Salaberrios said a similar effort saved him from a life of crime and violence in New York.
“There were Christians. Three women reached out to me when I was a street god, one of the largest drug dealers. They said, ‘Can we pray for you?” explained Salaberrios. “I didn’t know what that was. When they laid hands on me the power of God knocks me to the floor, demons come manifesting out of me. They started praying in the name of Jesus. I felt a peace come over me like never before and I quit selling crack cocaine.”
Brooks believes that the same power and peace can now make a difference in his city.
“At the end of the day, we can try to supply jobs. We can try to supply counseling. We can try to give all kinds of different resources, but I really do believe ultimately it’s spiritual warfare and a battle that we’re in and it’s a battle for people’s souls,” said Brooks.
He added, “The enemy is out to kill, steal and destroy people in our community and we have to do everything that we can to push back the darkness, to push back the evil. And the way that we do that is showing the love of Christ in very practical, meaningful ways.”
Meanwhile, the word is spreading about the film with help from Hollywood of all places. Back in May, Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, along with Mark Burnett, Roma Downey, and other celebrities rented out movie theaters to show the film and help spread its message.