Gang shootings and youth violence need forgiveness


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Frustrated by the gang shootings and youth violence that erupt on the Northwest Side, the Chicago Police Department is trying another approach: Forgiveness.

"We've done enough of these scared-straight things," said Albany Park District Cmdr. Michael Mealer, who is partnering with religious leaders in the area to offer a series of seminars on ways to reduce violence.

"I want to try a new approach because scaring them straight isn't always working," Mealer said.

The first seminar was held Saturday at North Park University. The participants included Rev. Bob Oldershaw, a pastor emeritus at Evanston's St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church; John Erikson, a theology professor from Lafayette, Ind.; and Salvation Army Maj. Stephen Harper.

Among the topics was the importance of teaching healthy ways to resolve conflicts within the family unit.

"We need to teach our children, from a young age, not to raise arms and not to turn to violence," Mealer said.

Mealer designed the faith-based series to help prevent the violence. He said the idea was not inspired by any specific incident but rather growing concerns about retribution, particularly among schoolchildren and gang members.

Mealer said he believes faith leaders have a unique power to inspire and guide, and talking about forgiveness is an appropriate starting point because all faiths embrace some version of the golden rule.

He hopes the discussion will discourage people from responding to provocations with violence.

"We have to inspire them to do the right things, not just walk through the signs that say 'No more violence' and go home," Mealer said, referring to the signs often visible at anti-violence rallies.

In an interview before the meeting, Oldershaw said people need to "unlearn this pattern of violence, this pattern of revenge."

Oldershaw said Bible passages—like the one in which Jesus asks God to forgive the people who were crucifying him—have the power to influence people's behavior.

"If God forgives us for all the crazy, wild, mean, vicious, terrible things we do, can't we try that too?" he said.

Mealer said he hopes a greater awareness of the need to forgive also will help bridge divides among the community's various ethnic and religious enclaves.

Erikson, who teaches in Croatia and Ukraine, said his work in the Balkans has showed him that forgiveness helps to forge relationships.

"I think getting along with people who aren't like you starts with forgiveness, because forgiveness is an act of love," Erikson said.

Mealer reached out to adults, such as community and school leaders, for the forgiveness seminars but plans to reach out to younger residents in subsequent seminars, which are in the planning stages. They will focus on bullying and gangs.

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Well I am a Christian and I know God does forgive those that repent. Repent that is the key word here. I could be wrong but this does not sound like the kind of forgiveness that scripture refers to but rather soom kind of touchy feely mumble jumble.


Titles are un-American.
"Scaring straight" really isn't that effective. The people who it works on aren't criminals anyway, or are one-time offenders who are like the rest of us, but happened to get caught. The kids who really need help, by that point, have already gone through so much that a look at the inside of a jail or whatever isn't going to affect them. Fear and threats do not produce results.

Most juveniles who are in trouble are in those situations because of dysfunctional relationships with family members and/or friends. They go on to forge similarly dysfunctional relationships with other people, and the problem only gets worse as they age. Interpersonal relationships are the beginning and the end of society, culture, and how we perceive others.

In most cases, people who have been poorly raised have to be hand-held on how to forge constructive, functional relationships with others. They've been living in the dark for so long, they don't even know what the light is, much less where to find the light switch. Many people are kept in the dark by their hatred and dislike for others for whatever reason. Washing that away and dropping that baggage is essential to building a constructive relationship from the ground up; that is the beginning of trust, which is when people stop fighting and start working together.

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