Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fear Not: Small Steps Add Up to a Community-Wide Effort to End Violence, Restore Justice

by Joe Scarry
Member, St. Luke's Logan Square

We are entering the last days of summer, and it has not been a summer without violence in Chicago. But people have been working on many fronts. Our work is not done; our work continues.

Here are some snaphots.

The movement against mass incarceration

Several weeks ago, members of St. Luke's Logan Square and Kimball Avenue church worked together with representatives of local advocacy organizations to do a screening and discussion for the community on the subject of mass incarceration.

About 20 people gathered in the fellowship hall at St. Luke's to watch The House I Live In and participate in a panel discussion with representatives of:
(See more thoughts at When is Christianity Going Back to Being the Religion of "UN-entombment"? .)

Ending violence -- locally and globally

Last week I was in Madison, WI, for a conference. I participated in a session in which nationally-syndicated columnist Bob Koehler, who is based in Chicago, talked about his experience with the restorative justice program at Chicago's Fenger High School. (See An Incubator for Peace.) Bob talked about how vital he thinks work of this type is to ending violence in our communities.

In the same panel, writer and activist David Swanson talked about his vision for an abolition of war.

It was striking to me to see the determination of activists in the Chicago community being lifted up side-by-side with those of activists working on the global stage to try to stop large scale violence.

Lutherans speaking out on issues of criminal justice reform nationally

One of the first things I was involved with when I came to St. Luke's was a study of the ELCA draft social statement on criminal justice.

This week Pastor Erik is in Pittsburgh at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, where the social statement will be debated and voted upon. This past Sunday he reviewed the high points with us:
  • The ELCA is prompted to speak and to act because so many cries of suffering and despair emerge from the criminal justice system — from victims, the incarcerated, their families, communities, those wrongly convicted, those who work in the system — and have not been heard.
  • Drawing from Holy Scripture, this church holds up a vision of God’s justice that is wondrously richer and deeper than human imitations and yet is a mirror in which justice in this world, God’s world, must always be assessed.
  • A fundamental transformation of mindset about criminal justice is required that challenges the logic of equating more punitive measures with more just ones. Individuals must be held accountable, but every person in the criminal justice system deserves to be seen and treated as a member of human communities, created in the image of God and worthy of appropriate and compassionate response.
  • Because mass incarceration causes significant harms, both personal and social, the ELCA strongly urges those who make and administer correctional policies to take all appropriate measures to limit the use of incarceration as a sanction for criminal offenses. Toward that end, this statement identifies three specific paths: pursue alternatives to incarceration, reform sentencing laws and policies, and closely scrutinize national drug policy.
  • Four other imperatives also require vigorous action from policy makers: the criminal justice system must acknowledge the disparities, and address the implicit and explicit racism that persists within; it must recognize the special needs of juvenile offenders; it must also stop the privatization of prison facilities; and finally, it must foster the full reintegration of ex-offenders into community.
(More at Sermon: Sunday, August 11, 2013: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost.)

Stopping profiling in New York City and Chicago

Today's New York Times announces: Judge Rejects New York's Stop-and-Frisk Policy. 'Nuff said.

On August 28, many of us will participate in a march and rally in Chicago to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. The event is part of a campaign by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression to protest profiling and violence against communities of color by police.

Youth engagement in Logan Square

In two weeks, we'll host the "Boulevard Bash" in Logan Square. We'll be lifting up work we're doing on issues of social justice and community health that are important to us, including our work with ALSO (Alliance of Local Service Organizations) and Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA).

*    *     *

In Madison, I sat next to an acquaintance before one of the conference sessions. I asked her about the pendant she wore - the outline of a fish within a circle. "It's a symbol of early Christianity," she told me. And then she added, "You know, for me, of all the things Jesus said, the most important is this: 'Fear not.' He says it in about 20 different situations." (See, for instance, Luke 12:32)

"Fear not." A message we are taking to heart in Chicago.

No comments:

Post a Comment