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Thursday, September 30, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 28

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Students strengthen faith after Fort Worth shooting

By Kimberly D. Jones
Daily Cougar Staff

Two weeks after Larry Gene Ashbrook killed seven students and murdered himself at a Fort Worth church, UH staff and students said religious violence would not keep them from their faith.

Seven students were killed in the Wedgwood Baptist Church sanctuary during a concert that closed a day of events surrounding "See You at the Pole," a rally in which students from UH and schools nationwide gathered on their campuses to pray for their schools.

"We have no sense of fear," said Margaret Harlan, junior human development/family studies major and leader of a prayer group that meets every day around the flagpoles near the Ezekiel Cullen Building.

Harlan said the group would not stop praying. "We are praying for the families of those who were involved as well as the people who commit these acts," she said.

"God does great things in spite of horrible circumstances," said Craig Butler, director of the University's Baptist Student Center. "This, as well as the incident at the Jewish religious center in Los Angeles, is a reminder that our freedom comes at a price, but hopefully people will continue to stand for their faith."

Lynn Mitchell, resident scholar in religion, said he believes law enforcement officials are partly to blame for violent incidents.

"Police and safety authorities should be more proactive in following the careers of these people," Mitchell said.

"The people who are involved in such crimes are usually already known for their racist views and violence, and authorities should be infiltrating their organizations to stay ahead of the game," he said.

But in the meantime, students stressed that incidents of violence like those in Fort Worth and at Columbine High School in Colorado only make them want to pray more.

"What we interpret as bad, God can turn around for good," said senior occupational technology and industrial studies major Diana Escamilla.

The UH flagpole prayer group plans to begin a second daily meeting, at noon, to supplement its 8:30 a.m. meeting. The additional daily prayer session will begin in October because group members said they feel there is a need for more prayer on campus.

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