MOUNDRIDGE — The issue of gun violence is not one that only concerns — or affects — residents of large cities.
Moundridge Public Library Director Jill Stern is bringing together a discussion panel for the first annual Interfaith Big Talk, which will focus on finding ways to collaborate and create hope when rural communities are affected by gun violence. The session will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. May 14 at Pine Village Wellness Center, 86 22nd Ave. in Moundridge.
"No town seems to be immune, no matter how small," Stern said. "I thought it'd be good to bring different voices together to share what they've done individually to prepare."
The panel will be comprised of faith leaders, including pastors from several Moundridge churches. Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder, who received a Medal of Valor for his actions during a shooting that took place at Excel Industries in Feb. 2016, will also take part in the panel.
"As we saw in Hesston, it doesn't necessarily stay contained to one church or one building, it wanders out to a whole town," Stern said.
The goal for the Interfaith Big Talk is to sidestep the political rhetoric and delve into what people can do to prepare for and respond to incidents of gun violence. Participants are encouraged to bring their ideas, questions, thoughts and concerns.
"I'm hoping there's a lot of audience participation, but I have some questions to get the ball rolling," Stern said.
Student safety has been brought to the forefront of many people's minds by recent school shootings.
"Obviously, the safety of our children is a big component to this conversation," Stern said. "...These are conversations we've had very recently at our schools in response to Parkland."
The Interfaith Big Talk is free and open to the public. Children are welcome to attend if their parents or guardians deem them ready to listen to a discussion about gun violence and its repercussions.
"We want it to be a whole community gathering and conversation," Stern said.
Stern would like to have Moundridge Public Library host an Interfaith Big Talk each year, noting there are many issues that could be discussed by Moundridge residents.
"We talked about the potential of looking at poverty or that we're a small, homogenous community," Stern said. "...There are a number of difficult topics we could have chosen, but this one seemed timely."
For more information about Moundridge Public Library and the Interfaith Big Talk, visit http://moundridgelibrary.com or call 620-345-6355.