Locals take part in a prayer for peace

Prayers for peace were shared by more than 100 people at the First Baptist Church of La Crescenta Thursday night during a candlelit vigil dedicated to Christian minorities facing persecution in the Middle East.

Pastor Bill Flanders organized the event following ongoing reports of small groups of Christians being driven out of their towns in parts of Iraq and, in some cases, being executed by extremists.

"There are atrocities taking place, I just thought to myself, 'we can't just do nothing. We have to band together,'" he said.

The vigil began with a handful of somber songs and prayers from church members followed by the screening of a few CNN clips showing what's happening in Iraq.

Those who stopped by were also asked for donations and their signatures on a petition for the BeHeard Project, which urges the federal government to step in and aid those being hurt.

Toward the end of the gathering, lit candles were handed out to everyone as the lights were dimmed.

Jesse Belisle said holding gatherings like Thursday's vigil might not seem to achieve much on the surface, but they do help get the word out.

"I think prayer is more powerful than sometimes credited," he said. "Any amount that comes is good. It just goes to show that people are taking some sort of interest and showing some care for what's going on in the world and not being complacent."

Jenica Briscoe said it's important to create as much awareness as possible so the violence occurring in Iraq is not repeated.

"I'm very saddened to hear what's happening to Christians in Iraq," she said. "I wanted to come join others in prayer to bring awareness to what is happening."

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World