Chicago, Illinois is one of the largest and most popular places to be in the Unites States. Being coined as the "Windy City," it is home to a population of 3 million people. It is also home to some of the best attractions, including museums, sports arenas, acclaimed performing arts theaters and pizzerias which draw tourist into the city. Chicago is also well known for its urban culture, which has inspired dances, songs and other forms of entertainment which have given the city a name that is constantly brought up around the country. While the Windy City has a reputation bigger than the city itself, Chicagoans are facing a problem which threatens to tear down everything that the city has built.
Gun violence has taken a huge toll in the city of Chicago. The majority of news reported in the city is largely focused on shootings or violent crimes which continue to plague Chicago as a whole. In 2015, Chicago had a total number of 489 classified murders. While this number is huge, it pales in comparison to the number of victims involved in a shooting in general. In 2015, 2,939 people were victims of a shooting in the city. In 2016, as of the month of June, Chicago already has 253 classified murders, which is over 50 percent of the total murders that occurred in the past year. While these numbers are growing at a rapid rate, Chicagoans have started to rally together in efforts to bring peace to their communities and put an end to gun violence.
New Life Covenant Southeast, headed by Pastor John F. Hannah, is an active South Side ministry of over 20,000 congregational members. It is one of the fastest growing and largest ministries in the Chicago area. Their ministry has been in existence for 12 years. Their service in the city has included food pantry, community outreach, back-to-school fairs, the adoption of two city schools, and the building of Grand Crossing Kid Care, a facility which will house up to 300 infants and toddlers. For the past six years, New Life has hosted an event called "Prayer On The 9," which is an annual prayer meeting on East 79th Street. The focus of these prayer meetings is to pray on the streets of Chicago, in efforts to stand against violence and crime within the city. In 2016, as the murder rate and violence in Chicago continued to escalate, New Life prepared a different plan for Prayer On The 9.
On May 21, 2016, New Life once again hosted its annual prayer meeting from 11 a.m. to noon. They spent the beginning of the hour praying on the streets, and praying for those that drove by in need of prayer. At the end of the hour, they decided to create a visual representation of what was happening in the city of Chicago. In an interview with Power 92.3, Pastor Hannah stated, "This is a visual generation...If they could just see what's really going on, it might make them think like, man, this is crazy." The members dressed in a red clothing item, symbolizing the blood that has been shed in their city due to violence. They also decided to bring a picture of a loved one that they lost due to gun violence and crime in the city. With the red clothing and the picture of their lost loved one, they stepped out into the streets and laid on the ground. This was done to represent all of the bodies scattered across their city. With so many people in red laying on the ground, New Life gained the attention of ABC7 Chicago and WGN Chicago, covering the event in their news' stories. There were also photographers at the event capturing the moment that New Life laid on the ground with their loved ones' picture.
Prayer On The 9 is not only a prayer meeting, but it's also a symbol of hope for the city. As the years have gone by, New Life has gained the respect of many Chicagoans, and their support as they help to restore the city. The city is slowly starting to realize that the work that must be done to restore peace is dependent on all of the people within it. People must put their differences aside, and decide that changing a life is better than taking it.