This article was originally published in the April 2017 Trenton Downtowner.
The symbol was hateful, but the response was fervid as dozens of Trenton citizens gathered on a freezing Saturday afternoon in early March to stand in unity.
The incident started earlier that week when an unseasonal warm spell encouraged members of Galeria Casa Cultura to launch a community street painting project — similar to the Windows of Soul project that brightens up vacant buildings.
One building owner who had given verbal permission to paint his property unexpectedly reacted negatively to a depiction of a Puerto Rican flag and spray painted a swastika over it. When asked about his actions by a reporter from the Trentonian newspaper, the owner replied, “It was kind of stupid to do something like that. It was just stupidity on my part. I kind of told myself, ‘Is something wrong with you?’ so I painted over it.”
Yet neighborhood members were shocked and angry — especially at such a cultural moment when racial, ethnic, and religious tensions are high — and another negative reaction could have followed.
But it didn’t. Casa Cultura president Sam Hanig, members of the organization, and neighborhood members stepped back and mobilized a stand against hate with a community unity rally.
That all of this occurred when it did has some significance. It was at the start of the Christian season of Lent, the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday traditionally used for self-examination and rededicating oneself to living more spiritually.
With Easter arriving this April and a new season arriving, Trenton Reverend Barry Vazques’ prayer on that Saturday gathering is meaningful beyond that one occasion. And with his permission we print it here as “A Prayer for the City.”
Heavenly Father we thank you for this day, as we stand in solidarity and remembering what Jeremiah 29:7 says that we should: “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Father, we pray for Peace in the city of Trenton. You said … Behold, I have put my words in your mouth …for I am alert and active, watching over my world to perform it.” (Jeremiah 1:9, 12).
We call you a city righteous — a faithful city. (Isaiah 1:26).
Thank you, Father, that You are purging our city of scoffers who would set it afire, inflaming the minds of the people, and because Your people are using Godly wisdom, we are turning away wrath. (Proverbs 29:8).
Father, we lift our voice to declare the song that You have given us to sing over our city, which says, “We have a strong city, the Lord sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks.” (Isaiah 26:1).
Father, we declare that Your people in this city are called a holy people, the redeemed of the Lord. We call this city sought out, a city not forsaken. (Isaiah 62:12).
Father, we decree that You are making our city to be a city set on a hill, whose light cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14).
Father, we declare that our city is called the faithful city of truth, and it is full of boys and girls playing in its streets. (Zechariah 9:3,5).
Thank you, Father, that You are raising up Your people to rebuild the ancient ruins, and to raise up the former desolations and renew the ruined cities and devastation of many generations. You are causing us to be called the repairers of the breach and restorers of streets to dwell in. (Isaiah 61:4; 58:12).
Father, You have said in Your word that no city divided against itself will last or continue to stand. Therefore, in the mighty Name of Jesus we rebuke you, spirit of division, over our city and command you to flee. We cancel all of your assignments and effects against this city in the name of Jesus.
We choose unity, harmony, and peace in Jesus’ name.
Father, we declare that You Yourself are our peace — our bond of unity and harmony.
We declare that Your people in this city are eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of the Spirit in the binding power of peace.
We are living in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, that together we are unanimously with united hearts and one voice praising and glorifying You.
Father, we declare that Your people are dwelling together in unity in this city, so that Your anointing is consecrating the whole body.
We declare Your promise that because we are unified, You are commanding the blessing upon us, even life forevermore.
Father, we declare that Your people in this city are one — perfectly united —just as You are in the Son, and the Son is in You, so that this city is convinced and fully recognizes that You have sent Your Son. (John 17:21, 23).
Thank you, Father, that You are destroying the schemes and confusing the tongues of those who would stir up strife and violence in our city. Those who are stirring up strife against this city are failing away to your people. (Psalm 55:9; Isaiah 54:16).
Thank you, Father, that You are raising up men and women in righteousness and directing them in how to build up this city. (Isaiah 45:13).
Father, we will not be discouraged when we see the enemy becoming enraged, but we will see that his anger is a sure sign of his inevitable defeat.
Thank you that the intensity of the battle will press us into You, Father, and it will cause us to be all the more vigilant to set a watch against him day and night.
In Jesus’ name we pray — that mighty name above all other names, which is our banner of peace, and our bond of unity and harmony, abolishing every hostile dividing wall between us. Amen!