Faith-based programs must play a more prominent role in combating youth violence, say Chicago religious leaders and police.
That is the prevailing message that emerged from a meeting between city clergy members and the Police Department at police headquarters. The meeting is the first police-sponsored gathering of faith leaders from throughout the city.
Police say the goal is to foster closer communication and collaboration between Chicago’s communities of faith.“Sharing best practices, that is the best way for us to combat this problem,” said Chief Tina Skahill.
In what all agreed was a convivial atmosphere, many church-run ideas were discussed, including vigils, after-school activities and mentoring programs. Cries of “amen” and “ain’t that the truth” frequently punctuated the speeches.Pastor Clarence Granberry of True Rock Ministries in the South Loop spoke about Pastors on the Move, a program he launched with other pastors to understand the causes of violence by talking to gang members. He said that since its inception, the initiative has helped to reduce youth violence in his neighborhood.
Police did not promise any new money to faith-based groups but did announce that the department would help these groups with grant-proposal letters and other ways of seeking out money from private donors.Attendees also resoundingly supported Wednesday’s visit by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. However, they emphasized that any federal help has to manifest itself at a local level.
“They have to give those resources to the church,” Granberry said.The police department is also pushing for churches to encourage more of its members to participate in existing programs to protect students such as Safe Passage and Safe Haven.
However, for Pastor Thomas Jackson of the Church of God in Christ on East 78th Street in South Shore, the underlying root of the violence afflicting the city’s youth is simple. “The bottom line is a lack of spirituality,” he said.