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Religious Leaders Call for 'Supportive Environment' After Lee Park Events

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Supporters of the statue of General Robert E. Lee holding torches in Lee Park (Photo courtesy @realmemealert) Supporters of the statue of General Robert E. Lee holding torches in Lee Park (Photo courtesy @realmemealert)
People holding a rally in opposition to supporters of the Lee statue in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE) People holding a rally in opposition to supporters of the Lee statue in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE)
Reverend Brenda Brown-Grooms Reverend Brenda Brown-Grooms
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

People of faith are standing together with a greater message of love.

The Charlottesville Clergy Collective drafted a statement in the wake of demonstrations at Lee Park over the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Supporters of the statue, including self-identified white supremacists, gathered with lit torches on Saturday, May 13.

"I was horrified by it, but I think we have witness over the past several months, maybe the last year and a half in particular, a surge in this sort of demonstration of people who are also operating out of fear that something is being lost to them. And so my prayers are with all of them as well," said Reverend Elaine Ellis Thomas.

A counter rally was held Sunday evening, which saw three people arrested following confrontations between opposing group members and police. Religious leaders hope despite the commotion that the Charlottesville community doesn't give up.

The letter says, "love is stronger than hate," and that all 17 religious leaders, "condemn acts of hatred and bigotry that threaten to intimidate and undermine peace and well-being of our neighbors."

Reverend Brenda Brown-Grooms of New Beginnings Christian Community says change starts by listening to one another.

"And the truth of the matter is we don't have the right to tell folk what hurts and what doesn't. If we are communities of faith and love, our responsibility is to hear each other and to say, ‘I'm sorry, how may I help you?’" Brown-Grooms said.

The collective was created by Reverend Dr. Alvin Edwards, the pastor at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church.

The faith leaders end the letter by encouraging people to join in prayer in an effort to foster a, "healthy and supportive environment."

"We can disagree about memorials and memorabilia, but people of good conscious and good faith need to be able to sit down to talk about the things that we don't agree about," Brown-Grooms said.

"We're in the business of hope and of healing. So seek out someone who can stand with you, because isolation and fear is no way to live," said Thomas.

They say changing with unity in mind is how Charlottesville should move forward.

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