After a rise in crimes in downtown Silver Spring, First Baptist Church held a candlelight vigil Sunday to “push back the darkness of violence and hate,” Pastor Gil Gulick said.
Faith leaders called on the community to come together in the holiday season to bring peace to the neighborhood.
“We pray for restoration, transformation and mobilization. We pray that those who have suffered from violence or witnessed such suffering can experience renewed hope,” one person said into a megaphone at the vigil.
There have been robberies, shootings and other crimes, but the fatal stabbing of 19-year-old Getro Banamina on Dec. 7 near the 900 block of Ellsworth Drive hit very close to home.
Authorities believe 18-year-old Dakari Thomas got in a fight with Banamina, stabbing him in the chest and leading to his death at a hospital. Thomas was arrested and faces murder charges.
Gulick said Banamina was found just steps away from the church, which led him to change Sunday’s sermon. Instead of preaching about Christmas, the message was about violence.
“As people of faith I don’t think it’s something that we can ignore, so it’s important for us as Christians to speak not only to our family of faith, but to speak to our surrounding community to offer hope to them,” Gulick said.
Montgomery County police said they’ve been dispatched to calls, including 32 assaults and 106 cases involving theft, around downtown Silver Spring nearly 200 more times between Nov. 1 and today than the same time period last year.
Police also released a frightening surveillance video from Nov. 3 showing a robber holding a knife to a woman’s throat as he searches her pockets and takes her belongings.
“Every act of violence is just showing that our humanity is broken and that we need love and we need peace and we need reconciliation among one another,” Molly Jamison Juarez, a member of the congregation, said.
The church is home to three other congregations of different languages and cultures, all coming together to take a stand against violence.