In Whittier, these young adults choose prayer over protest
WHITTIER — Like many of us, Jim Ortiz watched the protests on television.
Crowds of predominantly young people, angry and frustrated with police brutality and racial inequality, demanded change within their communities. Protestors called for the abolishment of police departments across the country.
Ortiz, senior pastor at My Friend’s House Assembly of God Church in Whittier, sympathized. As a church leader, however, he knew the protestors didn’t speak for all young people.
That was the motivation behind Your Voice Matters, a festival held Saturday at Whittier’s Central Park where young adults gathered to pray for police and share their thoughts regarding the civil unrest that has engulfed our country.
Ortiz helped organize the event along with local churches, non-profits, community leaders, and Voices of Whittier.
“We recognized there was something happening that needed to be addressed,” said Ortiz. “We all know that every life matters — it’s not just Black lives that matter, it’s Hispanic lives, it’s everybody’s lives that matter too. And so we need to provide an alternative voice.
“There’s more to resolving racial issues than just defunding the police or changing policies and administrative procedures,” Ortiz continued. “Those are needed perhaps to some degree. But the issues and the problems are much deeper and bigger than just those cosmetic things.
“I consider those cosmetic issues because the problem is in the heart of people. That officer that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, he didn’t do that just because he was a cop. There was something wrong in his heart. There was something much deeper to cause someone like that in that authority to destroy a life in that fashion. That’s more than he was a police man — he was also a troubled person.”
In addition to public prayer, Saturday’s event featured a voter registration booth, on-site counselors, a pregnancy care clinic, and a video booth where guests could record their thoughts on current circumstances.
Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri spoke at the event, as did council members Fernando Dutra and Jessica Martinez, and interim Whittier police chief Aviv Bar.
“We are here today because there are a lot of people — young people — who are hurting in the heart,” said Vinatieri. “The idea for us today is for those of us who know the Lord, that this is a safe place, that we don’t have to get sucked into what’s been going on in society, that we can stand up for what we believe, the Lord Jesus, the father, the son, the holy spirit, because that’s the only real answer…”