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Faith leaders encourage unity amid rise in Hampton Roads violence

Norfolk faith leaders spread the message of working together to find solutions to the rise of violence.

NORFOLK, Va. — Gun violence is on the rise across the nation and in Hampton Roads.

On Monday, police chiefs from the Seven Cities came together expressing that the community needs to step up to help change this trend.

RELATED: 757 Gun Violence: Chiefs on the Crisis

“Well, I can tell you one of my most violent sectors in the city has 64 churches... 64 churches. What we're not doing: one, there's a lot of folks out here that want to help but don't know how to help. It's for us to show them what they can do to make a contribution to this," said Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone. 

Now, some faith leaders are speaking out about the rise in violence and want to help.

“As a pastor's heart, I’m very saddened by the fact that such a beautiful city and great environment can turn so violent," said Pastor Dr. Antipas Harris.

Dr. Harris is the founder of the Urban Renewal Center located inside the First Presbyterian Church in Norfolk. The center’s goal is to get faith-based organizations involved in helping with community issues. Currently, they are working with the City of Norfolk to shelter the homeless at the old Greyhound station. But, the focus has now shifted to the rise in violence. 

“We must not expect law enforcement to fix these problems. This is a community problem and law enforcement is a part of the community or the units in the community that can address these issues. But the faith-based community has a vital role to play or overcoming these issues of violence and drugs," said Dr. Harris. 

Norfolk’s New Calvary Baptist Church Reverend Dr. William Small agrees with Harris. He sent 13Newsnow the statement below: 

Credit: Rev. William Small
Reverend Dr. William Small provides a statement about the recent rise in violence in Norfolk.

Dr. Harris is also encouraging others from different religious backgrounds to start the dialogue to find solutions. Harris has set up a meeting to speak with law enforcement. 

“I plan to speak with the U.S. Attorney’s office. I plan to speak to the police department. We have to talk to the faith-based community and try to pull people together," said Dr. Harris.