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Group prays to end city violence

Some people are praying for violence to end in Buffalo.

Literally.

A small gathering of people showed up Monday at a church in the city's Riverside neighborhood to pray aloud for an hour and appeal to God that those afflicted by various social ills, including gang violence and domestic violence, will be delivered. It is a continuation of a movement that was started in October by the Rev. Darius Pridgen, pastor of True Bethel Church.

George Johnson, president of Buffalo United Front, said others have picked up the mantle and have been attending prayer services at different churches around the city.

"We want to continue this prayer for 52 weeks, throughout the whole year. We're just asking different churches to pick up the prayer," said Johnson, moments before Monday's prayer service began in Shining Light Apostolic Ministries, 179 Ontario St.

"Prayer changes things," Johnson said. "People may think that it's not effective, but we know that prayer is very effective in terms of us continuing to do this thing that God has [called upon] us to do."

Among those for whom the group prayed Monday was Maria Pagan, 45, of Normal Avenue, and her 15-year-old daughter, Zayra, both victims of domestic violence. Maria Pagan died Jan. 17 from sword wounds to her back that were allegedly inflicted by her domestic partner, Juan Castro, 63, who also was charged with seriously wounding Zayra Pagan.

"We want to just let people know and understand that [they] are not standing alone in terms of dealing with this whole issue, because it's not just an East Side thing or a West Side thing," said Johnson.

"There's a dark cloud hanging over our city, and it's going to take all of us doing something," he added. "A lot of times, people say we need to get off our knees. Well, we do, but you have to have instruction from God in order for you to come off your knees."

The Rev. Roshelle Deas Roberson, pastor of Shining Light Apostolic Ministries, concurred with Johnson's sentiments following Monday's prayer service.

"Where Buffalo is going, we've got a lot of homelessness [and] things that will cause people to do things that we are against," Roberson said. "So, I'm hoping that prayer will cause them to be sterner [and] to run to God, because that's where the key is."

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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