Several church leaders plan peace vigil Thursday in Batavia to celebrate diversity

Posted 20 August 2017 at 9:33 pm

Press Release, YWCA of Genesee County

BATAVIA – The Rev. Dr. Roula Alkhouri saw it being driven through the city days after a clash between white supremacists and proponents of peace and justice ended in death and multiple injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It was a vehicle carrying a confederate flag. Ordinarily, Alkhouri isn’t shy about sharing her God-based messages, but she didn’t feel so brave with this man.

“I was scared,” she said Sunday. “Even though I was scared, speaking for love and speaking for justice is important.

Alkhouri and Rev. Jim Morasco, along with YWCA of Genesee County, are hosting a candlelight Vigil for Peace to allow others in this community to speak up for those important things at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at YWCA, 301 North St.

Last weekend began with a “Unite the Right” protest of the planned removal of the Robert E. Lee monument. Tensions, tempers and violence between that group and counterprotesters ended in one death and multiple injuries.

As the leader of Batavia’s First Presbyterian Church, Alkhouri fielded the reactions of many people here who felt hopeless and asked, “What can we do?”

“This resonated with so many people,” she said. “They want to do something positive and don’t want to respond with hate.”

She and Morasco, pastor of Morganville United Church of Christ, mulled the issue for how best to respond “in the way of Jesus.”

“It is easy to succumb to feelings of hate and to our desire to eliminate those who threaten to harm others,” they wrote in a recent letter to the editor. “But the way of Jesus calls us to nonviolent resistance that holds the possibility for transformation for all.”

The vigil is not a passive happening, but rather, an invitation to commit oneself to peace and justice and not succumb to any of the tactics used by those who promote racism and hatred.

As a board member of YWCA, Alkhouri felt that this event perfectly aligned with the agency’s mission to eliminate racism and would be well-suited to host the vigil. YW Executive Director Jeanne Walton believes that it’s important to stand at the forefront of racial justice and come together with others in the community to not only uphold – but also celebrate – diversity.

“We feel this is a powerful and positive way to foster the unification of many cultures and embrace individuality,” Walton said. “Please join us as we honor the many cultures, political views and doctrines represented in our community.”

Members of various religious and ethnic affiliations, including leaders of the Baptist, Methodist, African-American, Muslim and Jewish communities, will take an active role during the vigil to offer words of prayer, love and peace.

“People seem to have a need for an outlet to come together,” Morasco said. “If nothing else, this gives them the opportunity to express love.”

The public is invited to attend and churches are welcome to participate. If interested in speaking, call Alkhouri at (585) 343-0505.

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