Knoxville Clergy Gather to Fight Hate

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Knoxville (WVLT) - With the echos of a racially charged rally over the weekend fresh on our minds, more than one hundred Knox County faith-based communities are joining a call to arms.

Congregations members and pastors coming together to make a change and bring their message to the people of East Tennessee.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy has more on how they're trying to end violence in our community and how you can help.

Those at Tuesday's gathering represent more than fifty thousand East Tennesseans. Their work against violence wasn't spurred by this weekend's protest, but it served as a reminder. There's still much work to do.

A racially-charged rally brings shouts, swastikas to Knoxville. For Christians like John Stewart, it's a calling for the need to speak out against hate.

"One has an obligation to seek peace, to seek justice...that's what it's all about," Stewart said.

Sparked by the January murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, the weekend rally brought in hate and around two dozen white supremacists from out-of-town.

"If in a situation like this, people who don't think otherwise don't stand up and speak out, you're just sort of leaving the field to the haters," Stewart.

So Stewart and more than 50,000 of Knox County's faithful in more than 100 faith communities have banded together.

"We want to say we're fully engaged in doing some very significant things to end violence in our community," pastor Bill Sheill said.

Bill Sheill's heads up the effort that's already underway.

"The Knoxville Interfaith Network is active already this summer in hosting forums for teenagers in neighborhoods designed to get them talking," Sheill said.

And won't stop anytime soon.

"We're having a conference in November to educate clergy and faith communities about domestic violence," Sheill said.

They'll also mentor at-risk children in schools, and there's always the power of prayer.

"To pray for families, to pray for people in our neighborhoods, and through these prayer networks to talk together to civic leaders," Sheill said.

Stewart knows it won't be easy.

"Unfortunately evil is an element of our world. It always has been and always will be, but doesn't mean people of good faith don't get out there and do the best they can," Stewart said.

Exactly what Knox County's faithful are doing.

This weekend's protesters promise an even bigger rally in
June with hundreds of Klan members. Sheill says Knoxvillians should handle the hate by ignoring it, and to talk to your neighbors and follow the age-old-advice, love your neighbor as yourself.

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