By AT News Team, April 28, 2015:   Seventh-day Adventist leaders in North America today called for peace in Baltimore, Maryland, where peaceful protests against the death of Freddie Gray have turned violent. Baltimore is approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the World Headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Twenty-five-year-old Gray was arrested on April 12, and he died April 19 as a result of severe spinal injuries that were caused shortly after being taken into custody. Six Baltimore police officers were suspended pending investigation.

Adventists in the area have become involved in order to work for the community. On Monday evening three local Adventist pastors joined “a group of clergy on a walk through Baltimore to encourage young people to stop rioting and looting,” reported the Adventist Review. “I held gang members in my arms, and we wept together,” said Reginald Exum, pastor of the Edmondson Heights Adventist Church. “Now they know they have a God and a pastor who empathizes with them.”

“The other two Adventist pastors who participated in the walk were David Franklin of the Miracle Temple Adventist Church and DuWayne Privette of the Sharon Adventist Church,” noted the Adventist Review. “We do not want see anyone else being killed or harmed by the violence that has erupted. Going forward the systematic problems that perpetuated the violence must be addressed and we plan to work with local leaders to address those issues. Dr. King was right when he said that ‘riot is the language of the unheard.’ We want give a platform for those voices to be heard,” Franklin said, according to the Visitor.

Adventist Community Services is working with the Columbia Union, Allegheny East, and Chesapeake conferences in cleanup efforts on Tuesday. Baltimore Junior Academy used its Facebook account to request students’ participation in the work.

The administration of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North American also released the following statement:

A Call for Peace in West Baltimore

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Freddie Gray and the heartache it has caused his family and the Baltimore community. We extend our deepest condolences and continue to pray for his family.

In order to bring about change, we must engage in open, honest, civil, and productive conversation about the rights and equality of every member of our community. We pray that peace will prevail, for violence will only begat violence. To bring a lasting peace we, as a Church Community, must also descend on Baltimore with the love and compassion that Jesus modeled for us, not just now, during this time of turmoil, but in the years to come.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church stands ready to provide any and all resources necessary to help transform an oppressed, hopeless people into a vibrant, thriving community filled with hope.

We pray for the many citizens and clergy from various denominations including Adventist members that are participating in non-violent marches, encouraging peace. Pastor David Franklin, Miracle Temple Adventist Church; Pastor Reginald Exum, Edmonton Heights Adventist Church; and Pastor DuWayne Privette, Sharon Seventh-day Adventist Church have embodied love and compassion, taking to the streets to call for a non-violent solution.

The North American Division Adventist Community Services, the Columbia Union of Seventh-day Adventists, and the Allegheny East, and Chesapeake Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists, will lead a group of volunteers that will join the West Baltimore community in cleanup efforts, tentatively scheduled for tomorrow morning. Pray for these volunteers.

We admonish that those on either side of this conversation will strive to speak with peace, love, and grace.

We once again pray for the day when all of God’s children will treat each other without suspicion, bias, and hatred. As the Apostle Paul reminds us: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[1]