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‘Love is stronger:’ Faith leaders speak out over recent violence

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Two local faith leaders say they are heartbroken about disturbing incidents across the country over the past week — officer-involved shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana and the ambush that killed five Dallas police officers.

Violence is not the answer, they say.

Local pastor and Nightcrawlers member Anthony Smith said he was feeling angry and exhausted about the incidents. “A sense of powerlessness kind of came over me, and just sadness.”

Bishop Tim Smith of the N.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Both men support a dialogue with the church and community at large.

Anthony Smith, pastor with Mission House in Salisbury, said his church provided a space for members to lament and for some to vent about the shootings that occurred this week.

“I’m encouraging other pastors and community leaders to let people express their pain and anger and to give space for that,” he said.

Anthony Smith said in a Facebook post one idea is a collaboration between city government and a multi-racial community stakeholder coalition on how Salisbury can take seriously and locally implement President Obama’s 21st Century Community Policing Report and recommendations of Campaign Zero.

Anthony Smith also suggests that there be rituals and vigils of lament and conversation on violence, peacemaking and racial justice hosted by churches and community groups with doable solutions.

Another idea that was shared was to have a community forum 30 days after the installation of the new police chief, Jerome Stokes. Anthony Smith said he’d like to hear Stokes’ expectations and hear from a community coalition focused on law enforcement and community relationship.

“My hope is that there can be a peaceful, passionate dialogue between city government, the police department and the community and other organizations,” Anthony Smith said. “Not calm, but passionate. These issues before us are very serious. We want to be very preventative of anything happening.”

Bishop Tim Smith said he was heartsick about the shootings, including the most recent one in Dallas, which was retaliation.

“One of the disturbing things to me is the polarization, that you either have to be on the side of police or on the side of young black men. I’m on the side of both and I believe it has to be this way,” Tim Smith said.

He said he supports the job entrusted to police to serve and protect, but he doesn’t think it means the community shouldn’t talk about what he calls the police “overreach.”

Tim Smith said it also needs to be known that people can’t just go out and shoot police. He said such actions only give people a temporary sense of justification.

As clergy, he said, “we do not condone by any stretch of the imagination oppression, discrimination. Also we do not condone violence that begets more violence. We are killing ourselves. We are simply destroying ourselves and it’s madness.”

The Lutheran bishop is calling for calm, peace and a call to stand together. He said if needed, the community will walk arm-in-arm in the streets of Salisbury with people of all faiths and races.

“We’ve got to quell the hate,” Tim Smith said. “We’ve got to believe that love is stronger,” Tim Smith said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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