Interfaith Jamaica Plain gathering decries violence, prays for healing

Congregants and visitors prayed together at the Bethel A.M.E. in Jamaica Plain on Wednesday night.
Congregants and visitors prayed together at the Bethel A.M.E. in Jamaica Plain on Wednesday night.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

More than 100 people gathered at a Jamaica Plain church Wednesday night for an interfaith prayer vigil, asking for healing and unity following tragic gun violence in Orlando, Boston, and elsewhere.

Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy led the crowd at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in prayer for the victims of last weekend’s rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, this year’s homicide victims in Boston, and the nine worshippers killed last June at a church in Charleston, S.C.

“We extended our deepest condolences” to the families of the 49 Orlando victims, said Sheik Yasir Fahmy of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.


While the Orlando patrons were killed by a self-described Islamic State supporter, Fahmy said that “we speak out against such an act of hate-fueled violence,” which he said has “no place in any faith, especially Islam.”

During the vigil, the crowd sang hymns to the accompaniment of a live band and repeatedly joined hands, sometimes holding them aloft.

There were many solemn moments, when clergy recited the names of the Orlando and South Carolina victims, as well as those killed this year in Boston, including 17-year-old Raekwon Brown. He was gunned down last week outside the Dorchester high school he attended, and the slaying remains unsolved.

In a prayer for the black South Carolina worshippers who were killed by a white gunman, the Rev. Rahsaan Hall, who directs the Racial Justice Program for the ACLU of Massachusetts, decried the scourge of bigotry in the nation.

“We are in desperate need,” Hall said. “We need to be rescued from those who pursue us with their hatred.”

A prayer for Boston homicide victims was offered by Imam Taalib J. Mahdee of Masjid al-Qur’aan, a mosque on Intervale Street in Dorchester.

“We pray for your healing on the hearts of those affected by violence,” Mahdee said.


While attendees repeatedly nodded or murmured in agreement during prayers for the deceased, some gasped when Rabbi Eric Gurvis of Temple Shalom in Newton said he was tasked with praying for the perpetrators’ families.

“Let us not forget those who we might so easily overlook, who are also suffering,” Gurvis said.

The discussion also turned to public policy at one point, when the Rev. Laura Everett of the Massachusetts Council of Churches passionately called for an assault weapons ban.

“Because we have a God Almighty who judges,” Everett shouted as many cheered.

The Rev. Raymond Hammond, pastor of the Jamaica Plain church, asked attendees to join hands near the end of the vigil.

He said people of faith are “shocked, but not shattered” by the recent violence. He prayed that the crowd would not be dissuaded from “pursuing the miracles of justice and reconciliation.”

Hammond also offered a message to the grieving families of those who have been killed.

“We stand with you,” he said to applause. “We weep with you, we rage for you, we keep vigil for you.”

To conclude the service, many in the crowd hugged and swayed as they sang a booming rendition of the gospel song “I Need You To Survive.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.