Anti-violence Advocate Pastor John Raphael Dies of Cancer at 60

John Raphael, the influential pastor and anti-violence advocate of New Hope Baptist Church in New Orleans, dies of cancer at age of 60 Tuesday morning, according to church officials.

Raphael regularly spent the last week of each year to fast and pray in order to end street violence, and frequently held days-long vigils to push for citywide anti-violence campaigns on the streets.

Raphael told Gambit in 2011that New Orleans needs community-wide efforts to help at-risk young men in New Orleans.

"We have to encourage them, we have to push them, and there is a lot of grassroots and groundwork that has to be done. I think churches can play a tremendous role. Some people have to get up every morning and look for a way to change their lives. Others will sit and wait — one day something's going to happen. But they'll get up if they have someone giving them a hand, saying, 'Listen, what's going on in your life and what can I do to help?' You have to help them, give them some alternative.There are those things as a city and as a community we can't hide anymore. We can't shove them under the rug and pretend it's not there. We have to respond to it."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued a statement on his passing this morning:

I have personally relied on the wisdom and counsel of Pastor Raphael over the years, not just because of what he said, but because of how he lived. Pastor Raphael will be dearly missed.

Whether he was preaching on the corner, fasting for days on MLK, mentoring young people, or challenging us all to do more to end the death and violence on our streets, Pastor Raphael was consistent and responsible in challenging us all to do our part to reflect the love of God and improve our city. May our thoughts and prayers be with the Raphael and New Hope families.

Some comments from Twitter:

John Raphael has died. May we keep his memory alive and honor his push to rid our streets of violence. @Jarvis DeBerry

Huge loss for New Orleans; Rest in Peace Pastor Raphael. @Dana Kaplan

RIP to Pastor John Raphael. He was a champion for peace and a ROCK in the Central City Community. @Westley Bayas

I am so sad to hear of Pastor John Raphael's passing. He was a close friend of my family. My condolences to his family. @Jauné Jackson