The Ministry of Justice

Religious leaders in Lawrence, Kansas are taking the lead in grassroots organization to address community grievances and stand in solidarity with the community of Ferguson, Missouri.

The sun filters in through stained glass as people file in through the entrance of St. Luke’s African Methodist Episcopal Church on the evening of Aug. 28 in Lawrence. By 7:30 p.m., it’s standing room only in the 104-year-old gothic revival structure.

Residents are here for the Interfaith Vigil for Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 9.

Organized by the Lawrence Justice Ministry and the University of Kansas Ecumenical Campus Ministries, the vigil was also a solidarity demonstration and a call to Lawrence to stand for justice. The Justice Ministry represents 20 churches in Lawrence, along with the Jewish and Islamic centers.

The Ministry was organized in late 2013 to hear the complaints of the citizens of Lawrence, identify the root causes of those complaints, and act to solve them. Moussa Elbayoumy of the Kansas Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says “We decided to bring all places of worship together that believe in the mandate for justice.” The Ministry first gathered senior religious leaders and asked: “What do our faiths say about justice?” On March 1, 2014, the Ministry gathered an expanded meeting at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church for “Rethinking Justice,” to ask faith leaders to search their scriptures for inspiration about justice. That inspiration drives each of the speakers tonight.

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