HOT SPRINGS — Ahead of a rally to support the display of Confederate statues, Christian and Jewish leaders gathered in Hot Springs Aug. 19 to pray for peace and unity in their city.
“Jesus calls us to be a ‘light for the world’ and so we have gathered here in the wake of the racial violence in Charlottesville, which included an act of domestic terrorism, to bring the light of our faith to bear on what could be a volatile situation here in Hot Springs today,” Bishop Anthony B. Taylor told the 100 people in attendance. (See Bishop's column for complete message)
On Aug. 12 a white nationalist rally was held in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the removal of a Gen. Robert E. Lee statue when protesters and counter-protesters clashed. One counter-protester was killed and 19 others were injured.
With concern for the safety of Hot Springs residents, city, county, state and federal law enforcement ramped up security for the permitted rally organized by the Confederate Square Group. The Arlington Lawn in Hot Springs National Park has been the site of several uneventful rallies this year. The United Daughters of the Confederacy owns the land at the corner of Central, Market and Ouachita avenues where the monument is located and voluntarily removed a Confederate battle flag on the grounds two days before the rally.
Organizers stated the Hot Springs rally does not support white nationalism.
The service to pray for the end to bigotry, hate and racism was organized by Bishop Anthony B. Taylor and featured Father George Sanders, pastor of St. Mary Church where the service was held, and Dr. Steve Lake, pastor of the Historic Eureka Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Rabbi Richard Jacobs of Hot Springs read from the Old Testament, Father Chinnaiah Irudayaraj “Y.C.” Yeddanapalli, pastor of St. John Church in Hot Springs, read from the Psalms and Rev. Josh Johnson, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Little Rock, read from the Gospels. First Baptist Church pastor Rev. John McCallum prayed over the congregation.
In his sermon, Bishop Taylor said he believes Confederate monuments should be removed from public places and placed in cemeteries where they can honor those who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
“We have gathered in this place to pray for peace and justice,” he said. “We have gathered to pray that the Lord will use us as light shining in the darkness, a source of hope and healing and understanding. This means standing up for what is right, but it also means doing so in a way that respects the intrinsic human dignity of those we disagree with. Let us not forget that God loves them just as much as he does us. He may disapprove of their actions, but he doesn’t therefore withdraw his love.”
Father Sanders said the Christian ministers gathered for the Saturday morning service meet every Thursday to pray for one another and show unity in the city.
“Over the last two or three years we have come together for a real unity,” he said. “It is no longer theoretical for us. When we come together, we just pray for one another. When I pray with my brothers, I find out his needs are the same as mine. As we pray for one another, we get this bond and have 35 men who are bound together in fellowship. We have this unity.”
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