In a moving candlelight vigil outside our New York crisis shelter, our kids joined with staff and local religious leaders to stand side by side in spirit with the families of the Orlando victims.

“It is really hard to find the words to express the deep sorrow we feel,” said Sr. Nancy Downing of Covenant House.   “I pray there will come a day when we look at each other not based on our sexual orientation, our gender identity, our race, our religion, our nationality … but rather look at each other as human beings and find the love and compassion that is in our hearts.  I pray that we can be light for the world that is so filled with darkness … a light of love and compassion that lives here at Covenant House every day in the young people we work with who are with us,  and who are a part of us.”

“All of us are in a state of grieving for the victims in Orlando,” added Kevin Carlino of Covenant House.  “During this time of pain and shock we think especially of our LGBTQ community at Covenant House and how we can provide support.   It is a privilege and honor to work with our LGBTQ youth, with all our young people at Covenant House.  During times like this it is more important than ever that our young people know that we are here for them.  No one is alone, we are united together, and we pray for God’s providence to help us get through this and heal.”

Rev. Susan Webley Cox of Rivers of Living Water Church NY urged our Covenant House kids not to give in to fear.  “Some of you may be angry, confused, frustrated,” she said.  “And some of you may be feeling fear.  Fear wants to keep you from loving.  Fear makes us doubt ourselves, makes us feel that who we are is not good enough.  Fear makes us doubt the wonderful creation that is you…

“Don’t let fear make you forget who you are,” said Rev. Cox to our kids.  “Don’t let fear make you feel devalued and worthless.  Don’t let fear make you forget all that you have already overcome.  Don’t let fear make you stop living or loving.  Don’t fold under the pressure of fear … instead live boldly, even in the face of tragedy.”

“I am touched to be here, our church loves you and Covenant House so much,” added Nancy Warnock of Faith Church NYC.  “When I prayed about what to say tonight, all that kept coming back to me was the word love.  Tell the children they are loved.  Lean on each other, love each other, and together we can fight the darkness in this world.”

Shakeema North of Covenant House then read the names of the Orlando victims as the streets of New York City became eerily silent.  “I can’t say for certain why people choose to hate; why people choose to kill; and why people are void of love,” said Shakeema after reading the names of the victims.  “But the one thing I know for sure was that regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, God’s children are not disposable.

“Covenant House is a community of light that shines bright in the lives of youth that have been demoralized, dejected and treated as disposable by their families and friends,” said Shakeema.  “The darkness that our youth have experienced is real.  But as shown by our unity tonight, and the work that we do in the name of God and on behalf of our young people every day — together our light can conquer darkness.”