A U.S. Christian leader has asked a World Council of Churches peacemaking team visiting the United States for assistance to rid his country of the "scourge" of gun violence.
"We need your help," the Rev. Michael Livingston, president of the National Council of Churches, told the group at a meeting in Washington DC during a September 15-23 visit. "We need your help to turn around this terrible situation we have."
Thirty-two people died in April at Virginia Tech University in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, when a student who later killed himself went on a gun rampage.
The WCC team visit to the United States is part of the organization's "Decade to Overcome Violence" program, which aims to promote peaceful alternatives to violence.
On 21 September, the team was to attend a ceremony in New York conducted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to mark the U.N. International Day of Peace. The Geneva-based WCC is also marking the date by calling for an International Day of Prayer for Peace.
In Washington on September 18, the team heard about the statistics of gun violence from Ladd Everitt, representing the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
"We have a real pride in violence in our country," said Everitt, and quoted in a report by the NCC. "We also profit from it." He urged the WCC team to encourage people in the United States to take a stand against what he called a culture of violence. National and local U.S. political leaders are not adequately addressing that issue, he said.
The members of the WCC team come from countries that have had their own troubles with various types of violence. Team members include representatives from churches in Brazil, Lebanon, South Africa and Pakistan.
The visit is one of a series organized by the WCC in advance of an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation scheduled for 2011.
The teams are made up of people who have witnessed violence of various kinds and are involved in working for peace.