On Tuesday, July 10, 2012, The Leaders Network, a clergy-based disaster relief and social justice advocacy organization, held an emergency coalition meeting with 60 ministers and pastors from different communities and cultures to strategize how the faith community can respond to the escalating violence in Chicago neighborhoods. The meeting was held at the Greater St. John Bible Church located on 1256 N. Waller, where Reverend Ira Acree is the Senior Pastor and facilitated by Pastor Cy Fields, Leaders Network President.
The pastors discussed the development a Faith Community Clearinghouse highlighting the various programs facilitated by churches and other faith-based organizations. Pastor Ira Acree stated, “As I listened to the pastors talk about the number of youth and children activities that their churches currently host, I was pleasantly surprised. Many safe havens already exist but are underutilized due to limited marketing.” The information will be posted on a website.
Father Michael Pfleger galvanized the clergy’s major concern about the availability and volume of guns on the street, especially assault weapons that are frequently used in fatal shootings. Pastor “Slim” Coleman of the Latino community informed the coalition that “the lack of jobs has created a drug economy that is sustained by the use of guns.” Pastor Hatch added, “Father Pfleger has been on point and passionate about this issue. Moving forward we will give the support of this group behind him and fight vehemently for sensible gun legislation.”
Pastor Leslie Sanders facilitated discussion about the felt need for some modifications in police strategy and structure can make a difference in community relations and curbing violence. Pastor Walter Turner expressed concern over the Chicago Public School students not starting on time and the lack of budget resources to help churches keep children out of harms way during the critical after school hours. Pastor Jaques Conway pointed out the challenge faith leaders must take to the entertainment industry that negatively influences many youth with their violent video games and music lyrics.
Pastor Marshall Hatch announced plans for a citywide multi-racial ecumenical “Peace Weekend.” The weekend will urge Chicagoans to attend mosques, synagogues, and churches to promote the respect for human life, moral regard, and community mobilization to stop violence. The clergy coalition will also become a vehicle to inform the general public about what community-based organizations are doing to make Chicago a safer place.
Mr. Larry Greenfield of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago stated “We’re looking forward to mobilizing our clergy group to help address the violence issue in our city.” The clergy unanimously voted to adopt the strategic proposals and initiate an implementation plan of action.