MARS, Pa. (KDKA) — Racial injustice was the theme of a prayer vigil hosted by local church leaders in the town of Mars on Wednesday.

“I’m proud to be an American. I am so proud of our veterans and their comrades who fought to give them the freedom and liberties that we have. Our desire is for all our citizens in the nation to enjoy what they fought for us to have,” said Rev. Peter de Vries, with Old Union Presbyterian Church.

Rev. de Vries told KDKA he was inspired to host Wednesday’s event after talking to another pastor in East Liberty.

“That’s a community that certainly knows about racial injustice because it’s something they are living with constantly and we thought the message needs to come to communities that are more white, like our community, like Mars,” Rev. de Vries said.

Residents from around Butler County showed up to join in prayers and songs.

“I believe there is institutional racism here, but there are good people here, and I have friends who own businesses here and some of us support everything,” John Patrous said.

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Bryan Orr)

Patrous said he’s lives in between Mars and Saxonburg and believes having open conversations in the smaller suburban communities will hopefully lead to change.

“I have some more hope, some more faith and take things day by day. I’m a childcare worker and a teacher and it’s real important to take something and give something by being here,” Patrous said.

In total, religious leaders from nearly a dozen local churches led the program.

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Bryan Orr)

The event stayed peaceful, but Mars Police and Butler County Sheriff Deputies were on hand in case they were needed.