A Greenwood-based ministerial organization is asking for a summer cease-fire, hoping the agreement will give spiritual leaders time to intercede before another trigger is pulled.
“Ultimately, our prayer is that we can figure out the root of the problem, and there is a problem in Greenwood,” said Mt. Olive Baptist Church Rev. Adrian Wideman, president of the Pastors and Ministers Fellowship of Greenwood and Vicinity. “Everybody is searching for the answers, but we haven’t found it yet, and the only way to do that is to pull back the layers through communication and dialogue with those who are truly on the streets.”
The organization has developed a three-pronged approach they hope will reach its goal of easing tensions and avoiding yet more bloodshed:
Setting up a private meeting between clergy, community members and law enforcement to glean information about pending homicides or upcoming shootings, without fear of arrest or reprisal.
A “spiritual summit” focusing on single parents, poverty-stricken neighborhoods and other challenge areas that can foster lawlessness.
An immediate 90-day cease-fire from “all gangs, territories and communities” to allow for the fellowship’s work.
“We can no longer sit idly by without a sincere plan of action to help our city and our community come together and help find a solution to end the suffering of the victims and their families,” Wideman wrote in a news release announcing the fellowship’s plans.
The platform comes as law enforcement officials are investigating the shooting deaths of four young men between this month and July 2018.
Michael Butler, pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in McCormick and former Greenwood city assistant police chief, ended a 33-year law enforcement career in 2006.
Butler views much of the work ahead as a “family conversation” to be held away from the public eye — one that will require honesty, faith and a commitment toward future harmony.
“Being clergy, we understand we have to love one another and that’s a lot of what’s missing in our community, is love and ultimately respect for one another. There’s always been differing of opinions and there always will be, but we need to learn to handle it in a different way,” Butler said. “There’s a lot more positive young people in our community there are those involved in this negativity, and they’re not supporting it, they’re not a part of it, they don’t want it. But what tends to happen in times like these is we tend to put a lot of our focus in the negative and don’t accentuate the positive.”
Wideman said the multi-tiered strategy will be followed a more comprehensive action plan.
“My concern now is the people that we really need to talk to won’t come to meetings or our churches, because of fear that what they know could hurt them, so we want to meet with them outside the press and outside the public,” he said. “We’re just using the Pastors and Ministers Fellowship as a means to an end. We’re not trying to get them to join our church or even come to church but we want them to understand, ‘We care about you as much as you should care about yourselves.’ There’s no ulterior motive.”
Butler attended a May 30 prayer vigil organized by Greenwood County Council member Edith Childs, where religious leaders from various faiths gathered to prayer over the community. Events like that are important, he said, but need to be accompanied with human interaction.
“We got a lot of work to do, but we want to just help in any way we can to help people learn some problem-solving skills and some conflict resolution skills. The victim is not just the person that is laying on the ground, but all the families on both sides of the issue because even when a person is arrested, that doesn’t end it, so it’s a much bigger problem than some people see,” he said. “A lot of parents are doing all that they can, but out all the good they do, sometimes our children are being raised in the same house, being fed and clothed by the same people, and they take a different path because they have choices, and all choices lead to consequences.”