Religious Men Combat Violence, Crime

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Few today would deny that we face an "unrelenting epidemic violence in America," said Franciscan Fr. Michael H. Crosby.

"And yet we are stymied in our efforts to find systemic ways to begin healing our nation's sickness," said Crosby, a contributor to the Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Shalom Strategy: A Manual to Promote Reconciliation, Nonviolence and Peacemaking. The 210-page manual provides study papers on the spirituality of nonviolence; the causes of violence by young people; women, violence and the response of male religious; and the global face of violence.

Since 1994, conference members have focused grassroots ministries on curbing the epidemic of violence in U.S. society. The project draws together 270 religious congregational leaders and 23,000 brothers and priests at thousands of sites of ministry. It invites participants to see their work from the perspective of nonviolence and peacemaking.

A Shalom Strategy survey undertaken in 1995-96 examined what members and institutions were doing to deal with violence in its various forms.

It was clear from the survey that those who do pastoral counseling in CMSM member parishes, student counseling in schools and social services in urban areas are in constant contact with the fallout of urban violence. Priests and brothers ministering in those situations know the effects of violence and the consequences of living families, neighborhoods and communities riddled with street violence, gang activity and spouse and child abuse, said Marianist Fr. Ted Keating, CMSM Peace and Justice Office director.

"At times, there is a tendency to take the violence for granted," Keating said. He said the Shalom Strategy involves members in coming to grips with their responsibility to name violence for what it is. By that, he means members must respond not only to the millions of human needs calling out for help, but must "spell out a convincing social analysis of how economics, politics, racism, media, consumerism and other systemic realities have created the conditions for local problems.'

Violence has so infiltrated our society that "it has frightening capacity to deaden our consciousness. Members must speak out against the crimes that infiltrate our culture," Keating said. Statistics from the FBI Crime Index reveal 13 million violent crimes annually including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault, plus property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. More specifically:

* One criminal offense occurs every two seconds;

* One violent crime every 18 seconds;

* One murder every 24 minutes;

* One forcible rape every 5 minutes;

* One robbery every 54 seconds;

* One aggravated assault every 29 seconds.

* One burglary every 12 seconds;

* One larceny-theft every 4 seconds;

* One motor vehicle theft every 21 seconds.

Keating said that responses to the Shalom Strategy survey "indicate it is almost impossible to work in inner city neighborhoods or poor and marginalized rural communities without being confronted daily with excessive amounts of pain and suffering caused by the systems of injustice. …