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Littleton strives for lasting peace

BY PJ HELLER | LITTLETON, CO | February 17, 2000

LITTLETON, CO (Feb. 17, 2000) -- Shock and disbelief shook this community

once again this week with the discovery of two Columbine High School

students found shot to death at a sandwich shop about two blocks from the

school.

"People are tired of it (the tragedies)," said Claudia Henning, pastoral

assistant at Trinity Christian Center, located next door to the Subway

sandwich shop where Nicholas Kunselman, 15, and his 16-year-old girlfriend,

Stephanie Hart, were found dead.

The two teens, killed late Sunday or early Monday, were discovered early

Monday morning -- Valentine's Day. Police said they had no motive for the

slayings but said they didn't believe they were related to the Columbine

slayings.

Henning said her church was in the process of organizing "Columbine Rise

Again," an event to mark the anniversary of the Columbine High School

massacre in which 15 people died, including teen-age gunmen Eric Harris and

Dylan Klebold.

"I think people are ready to fight back," Henning said. "There's something

that needs to be done. We believe that you start in the heavenly realm and

that's how you break things."

She said the week-long event would likely include other faith-based

organizations.

Some area churches responded to the latest incident with prayer services

and prayer walks while others incorporated their response into programs

already planned. A memorial service was held Monday night at Calvary Chapel

and a special service was conducted the following night at Columbine United

Church.

"It was a 'service of healing' in light of all the tragedy that has

happened in the Columbine area," said a spokeswoman for Columbine United

Church. About 100 people attended the service.

A prayer walk was held Wednesday night for youth who are members at Dakota

Ridge Assembly of God. Another prayer walk, expected to include more than

25 churches from the community, was planned for Feb. 27. That "Jericho

Mile" prayer walk was being sponsored by a network of 25 evangelical

churches in southwest Denver.

The walk was scheduled to start at the Trinity Christian parking lot and

proceed to where the body of an 11-year-old boy was found last week in a

garbage dumpster.

The Rev. Fritz Dale of Southern Gables Church, who was organizing the walk,

said the idea was to help members of the community cope through prayer with

the series of tragedies which have befallen the area.

"There is such a sense of helplessness and fear in the general community

and I don't think the church is immune from that," Dale said. "Things are

increasingly fragile (in the community). There is a great sense of unrest

and uneasiness."

"The whole idea is to take back the community for Christ and to break the

stronghold that is over this community," Henning said.

Until the shooting deaths of Kunselman and Hart, the discovery of Antonio

Davalos' body in a dumpster at a mall near the school had been the latest

jolt -- of many -- to hit this community in the Denver area.

The first was the April 20 Columbine massacre, which left 12 students and a

teacher dead and 21 others wounded. The two gunmen took their own lives. It

was the worst high school shooting in U.S. history.

Then last summer, the mother of a girl who was paralyzed in the Columbine

rampage committed suicide. In December, a threat posted on the Internet

forced Columbine to close for two days.

"It's like a tornado that touches down, then goes up, comes back down

again, but never leaves to move to another town," 16-year-old Jennifer

Smull, a Columbine junior, told a reporter.

The Southwest Jeffco (Jefferson County) Interfaith Alliance, made up of

more than a dozen faith-based leaders, issued a statement Wednesday night

saying it would work for "peace and unity" in the community.

"As a community of faith who live and work and worship in the Columbine

area, we are painfully aware of the violent acts which have affected our

community. Our prayers are with those who have been affected by these

acts," it said.

"We are a people of hope. We dedicate ourselves to working for peace and

unity in our community and beyond. We invite you to join us in prayer as we

all worship together to claim God's blessing for us all and our children,"

it said.

Gun-control advocates, meantime, pressed their case for tighter regulations

on weapons and their owners.

"We keep losing young people to gun violence and little seems to get done,"

said Bryan Miller, executive director of Ceasefire New Jersey, a statewide

gun violence prevention group. "The legislators in Colorado have a unique

opportunity now to do some things that will make the streets, schools and

shops in Colorado safer from gun violence and they should take those steps."

Gun-control advocates in Colorado, hoping to convince state legislators to

enact stricter gun laws, unveiled a wall in Denver a few hours after the

Kunselman-Hart shootings that contained the names of more than 3,000 people

killed nationwide since the Columbine shootings.

"Every time we turn around there's another Columbine or a shooting of young

kids," said Donna Dess Thomases, who is organizing a "Million Moms March"

against gun violence in Washington, D.C.

"There are a lot of moms like me out there who are incensed and outraged

over the lack of a decent gun policy in this country," she said.


Related Topics:

Faith leaders explore what's next

Is mass murder a form of protest?

Faith leaders provide Las Vegas support


More links on Public Violence

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