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Catholic Voice
May 9, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA
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Unsung heroes

St. Benedict parishioner Cheryl Bryant Bruce, joins Rev. Jayson Landeza and Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, in prayer.

Bishop Barber joins walk against violence

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, joined about 60 other people in a march against violence in Oakland's Eastmont district the evening of April 29.

It was the fourth time in two years the bishop has joined one of the Ceasefire Walks for Peace, interfaith events that address concerns of violence within the community by using a public display of unity as a form of communication. In 2014 he participated in walks in Oakland and Richmond, and so far this year in Antioch and Oakland.

Priests joining Bishop Barber included Revs. Jayson Landeza, pastor at nearby St. Benedict Parish, and Brian Joyce, James Shexnayder and Paul Vassar. Parishioners from St. Benedict and St. Columba parishes also joined.

The walkers moved from St. Benedict down Bancroft Avenue from 82nd to 73rd and returned. The evening ended with a multifaith prayer led by Father Landeza, Bishop Barber and Rev. Damita Davis, walk coordinator.

The walks are cosponsored by Catholic Charities of the East Bay, Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, Oakland Community Organizations, CityTeam Ministries and the Diocese of Oakland.

Rev. Davis, also assistant pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church Mount Sinai and a member of OCO, said the Oakland walks began in September 2012, and that "Statistics show that since 2012 a significant reduction (30 percent or more) in both homicides and the number of shootings" is recorded, making these walks successful and necessary.

This is not a political issue, she said, but in her view, the statistics reveal it is "the will of the people" that has reduced firearm and other violence.

"Although we must also recognize that more resources have been allocated [by the local government] and the police have been doing a better job in recent years," Rev. Davis acknowledged.

The peace walks run in various East Bay cities from about 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and begin with an Ecumenical Prayer Service and instructions, followed by the peace walk. During the peace walk, participants hold signs and encourage the community to become more aware of the call for peace. The event concludes with a reflection among all participants, reported Cristina Hernández, Life and Justice coordinator for the diocese. More information is available at Oakdiocese.org/Ceasefire.

Involving different religions and groups is a way to tell people "We care about all the citizens of Oakland, even those who are causing the problem. We love them, we want to help them, but we also want the violence to stop," Davis said.

That the bishop and other civic leaders will come out and walk shows everyone that this community is important, she said. His "is a voice that speaks louder and can reverberate beyond bringing this important message: Put down your weapons."

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