Hundreds of people gathered June 25 at St. Sabina Church, 1210 W. 78th Place, for an “Invading Our Community With Peace” walk through the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. “At St. Sabina, we’ve declared this year a year of invasion,” said Father Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina’s senior pastor. “We’re calling on all of our members to invade their workplaces, their blocks and their communities with the presence, the power and the love of God.” The march was the first of St. Sabina’s Friday night summer activities that are intended to build connections among community members. “I believe we have become absentee landlords of our communities,” Pfleger said. “When there’s a building that has an absentee landlord, there are problems, and the same thing happens in a community. We want to take responsibility back and be out here and be visible in our community.” That applies to everybody, he said, from neighborhood residents to churches and community organizations. “We live in this very isolated culture,” Pfleger said. “We don’t know our neighbors like we used to, we don’t talk to our neighbors. That helps create the culture where anything can happen. We have to call people to be landlords again of their homes, their neighborhoods, their blocks and their communities.” Among the people who gathered for the march were the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Pamela Bosley, co-founder and executive director of Purpose Over Pain, a parish-based organization for parents who have lost children to gun violence. Bosley’s son, Terrell, a college student, was killed in 2006 in a church parking lot while helping a friend unload drums to accompany the choir. Bosley spoke before the march, reminding participants of the toll gun violence takes in Chicago. In June, she said, 464 people were shot and 75 killed by gunfire in the city. “We want people to understand that this violence is happening every single day,” Bosley said. She also invited those present who lost a loved one to gun violence to say their names before the march started. “The goal is to have a peace march, but always remember why we’re marching,” Bosley said. She asked for a show of hands to see how many of those killings were unsolved. It was most of them, she said. During the march, people played music and carried signs as well as distributing the information about resources available at the parish, from help finding employment to help getting food. “A lot of times people become so hopeless,” Pfleger said. “When people see people come out with the music and the march, it gives a lot of hope to people. If you look at this last year, people have been so isolated in their homes, not going to work or out to the stores.” Events like the march and a July 2 block party give people an opportunity to connect with one another. “I think we in the faith communities are going to really have to challenge people to come back out,” he said. “Our faith calls us to be in relationship with one another.” While the isolation caused by COVID-19 might be one factor in the upswing in shootings Chicago has seen, it is far from the only factor, Pfleger said. “I think it’s part isolation, it’s part frustration, it’s part depression, and all of these pre-existing conditions: the poverty, the racism. We had violence in Chicago before COVID,” he said in an interview after the march. But he and other members of the community were not blind to the resources that went into protecting people from COVID-19. “We have got to put as much effort and commitment and resources and dollars that we did fighting against COVID on violence,” Pfleger said. “In a matter of around 6 months, we came up with a vaccine for COVID and we’ve been having violence for years. We put billions of dollars into fighting COVID. Why aren’t we doing that with violence? COVID affected everybody. Violence primarily affects Black and brown communities.” In the meantime, Pfleger said, more churches and community groups should do things like go out and march for peace on Friday nights. “Friday night is the deadliest night in Chicago,” he said. “Imagine if groups, block clubs, churches and organizations all decided we’re going to go out Friday nights all over the city. What would happen to violence?” After all, he said, in the weekend following the march, when more than 70 people were shot in Chicago, no one was injured by gunfire on Friday or Saturday night in Auburn-Gresham.