Church offers refuge from violence

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -- It’s an unusual solution to Chicago’s violence problem.  Starting Sunday night at midnight, a church on the city’s west side is staying open for 21 days.

New Life Covenant Church will remain open 24 hours a day at their main campus location at 3400 W. Division Street.

Pastor Wilfredo De Jesus said this is their way of helping the community and creating a sense of calmness after a particularly violent year.

In 2015 there were 468 murders, up 52 incidents from the year before.

Yvonne Rivera lost her younger brother to gun violence 18 years ago and her 14 year old son was shot at the same time, but survived.

“You can forgive, but you will never forget,” she said. “It's a loved one that's taken away from you.”

She would’ve liked to have seen this approach done years ago in Chicago.

De Jesus said they will offer homework tutoring, Friday night movies, nightly dinner, prayer and conversation – for all.

“The homeless, come that they would have a place to come and have hot chocolate, let's just talk about life,” said the pastor. “The gang bangers, just put down their guns and come and sit down with us and talk to us about why the violence is going on.”

He said his church starts every year with a 21 day fast, but this year they wanted to also include the community. 

“We can live without food, we can live without water for 6 days, we can live without air for 6 minutes, but we cannot live without hope,” said the pastor. 

The police are also welcome and will hold a roll call at the church Monday afternoon.
De Jesus hopes the 21 days will be a bridge between police and the public.

The church is accepting donations and volunteers to help the next 21 days. 

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