The idea for the gathering came from a high school student.
In the wake of the recent shooting in the Orlando nightclub, the nation seeks healing and a way to stop the violence.
This search brought 200 to 300 people to the Community Room at Daytona Beach Police Headquarters, 129 Valor Blvd., on June 13 for an interfaith service. They filled the chairs and stood along the walls as representatives of various faiths spoke and delivered prayers. The message that carried through the evening was that people of all faiths should work together to defeat bigotry and violence.
The idea for the event came from a local high school student, according to Police Chief Mike Chitwood.
Regan Creamer, daughter of a police sergeant and student at Atlantic High School, called Chitwood and told him that there was a lot of frustration and anger, and suggested a prayer service.
“So I started calling people,” Chitwood said. He said the department often works with members of the faith community.
Creamer said she contacted Chitwood because she knew he could make it happen. She felt it was important to reach out to the community.
“You hear about things far away but this was in our own backyard,” she said.
The fight against bigotry
Pastor Derrick Harris, president of the Black Clergy Alliance, said the faith community in Daytona Beach stands solid with Orlando and will not tolerate bigotry in any of its forms.
“We are a loving community,” he said. “We will love one another and we will love the other — the one who is different.”
Rev. Phil Egitto, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, spoke against the violent culture of the country. Violence is glorified, he said and people don’t turn the other cheek.
“I’m sick of praying after gun violence because I know it will happen again,” he said. “I know it won’t stop until we stop it.”
The night was sweet, but also sour for Monzell Ford, vice president of the Black Clergy Alliance.
It was sweet to see all of the various faiths gathered together, he said, but sour, because he had been trying to get people to come together for a long time.
“My prayer is to stop talking about it and start being about it,” he said. “You can’t sit back and let others do it.”
Beacons of light
Rev. John Baldwin, policy advisor at Bethune-Cookman University, asked in a prayer to “help us stand for what is right. Help us to be a beacon of light of justice for all.”
Also speaking was Imam Belal Alzuhiry Shemman of the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach.
“We came here as one community and we stand united against bigotry,” he said. “Nothing will disunite us.”
He said terrorist misquote and misrepresent Islam and the first priority in Islam is to honor life. He pointed out that terrorists are killing Muslims on a daily basis.
Rabbi Stanley Howard Schwartz, to those who lost loved ones, said, “May their memory become a blessing as tragic as it has been … May they say, their memory is a blessing and we will not forget them.”