US religious leaders use t-shirts as statement on gun control

World Today

US religious leaders use t-shirts as statement on gun control

Religious leaders in the U.S. are demanding an end to gun violence in their communities. Some leaders in the Washington, D.C., area found it more effective to communicate not with words but with clothes. CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

There are 205 t-shirts with 205 names lining a suburban Washington, D.C., street. They represent the 205 people killed by gun violence last year in the metro area alone. The death date for each is visible for all.

Pastor Earl Zimmerman from Daniels Run Peace Church is in charge of this rotating exhibit for the next two weeks. He was a chaplain at a local trauma center before coming to the area four years ago.

Members of Zimmerman’s congregation put up the t-shirts on church grounds just hours before the Las Vegas massacre.

“We’re kind of shocked, and the grief that’s there, that’s hard. That’s really really hard,” Zimmerman said.

Last week, the shirts lined the entrance of one of D.C.’s most progressive synagogues, Temple Sinai. Rabbi Hannah Goldstein is one of its spiritual leaders.

“It’s not just about the ritual, it’s not just about the prayer, it’s about the actions and living up to the standards — the ethical and moral standards — of a person of faith,” she said.

The exhibit was intentionally timed to coincide with the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Congregants held a special service when the shirts came down.

“They read the names of all of the victims of gun violence, and I think it was more than just hanging art outside, it was a sacred ritual,” Goldstein said.

Lisa Delity heads the Washington, D.C., chapter of Heeding God’s Call, the national group behind the t-shirt exhibit.

“Writing the shirt is one of the more difficult things that has to be done, especially when you write age two, age three,” Delity says. She thinks places of worship are a natural home for the t-shirts.

“We sometimes need to step up from our pews, and step out to the world and say this needs to stop. We need to stop our fellow human beings, our fellow children of God, we need to stop them from dying,” she said.

The exhibition is intentionally in a public, open space: apolitical in nature, but perhaps a bit provocative. Delity said the goal is for people to stop, read, pray and remember  — not just the lives that have been lost, but those that are dying every day.

This year’s victims will appear on next year’s shirts. The clergy hope one day, there’ll be no shirts to hang.