Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Time of Violence and a Prayer for Peace

The past year has been a violent one for the Chicago neighborhood of Uptown. To be sure there are more violent areas of the city. I am not sure that is a comfort to the victims of Uptown. While I was in Uptown there were 12 shootings and 3 deaths. The total for the year was 31 shootings and 4 deaths. This is for one neighborhood. There was an attempted rape, mid-day at a beach only a few blocks from us.

120 drug dealers were arrested over a four day period. Gang violence dramatically increased. I personally witnessed a man assaulting a young teenage girl, luckily the police arrived as the violence was occurring. I had just walked out of a building when I heard other young girls screaming that the man was strangling their peer. He was calm and angry and acted as if we did not even exist. I witnessed a man hit a woman and take her child. He left before I could get down the stairs but I did call the police. I have no idea how that situation was resolved. For two days I walked past the blood stained sidewalk of a multiple shooting that occurred around the corner from our house.

During an evening at outreach there was an attempted bombing of a concert at Wrigley Field. Thanks to the assistance of the Arab community and the diligence of the FBI the plot was foiled. I attended a Synagogue that had been a bomb target by Al Queda in Yemen. Our local L stop had the bomb squad called out twice while I was in Uptown.

The violence has been aimed at gang members but everyone knew they could be victims. In September a man opened up with a gun at our Jewel parking lot, customers hit the ground to avoid being shot. On Halloween at Wilson and Malden man was shot inside his home from an outside shooter, two blocks away at Kenmore a shooter shot 3 teenagers, an hour later a man was killed at Sunnydale. Much of the violence was within a one to four block radius from our house. It was not unusual to hear gun fire. In fact, beyond the statistics mentioned there were an additional 32 reports of people hearing gun fire but no one being shot.

So I was not surprised when the pastor of Rogers Park Community Church and members of his congregation were seen on Wilson Avenue. They had arrived to pray with members of the Uptown Baptist Church for peace in Uptown. Because they do believe in the transformative power of grace they also prayed for the gang members. I was happy to see them and spend some time with them. The day was cold and windy but the group was uplifting and stood in solidarity with the citizens of Uptown.

Jesus Loves Gang Members

I have a 30 year history with Uptown. It has always been a rough neighborhood but it has never been like this. The hope is that this is a temporary period of increased violence. That what we are witnessing is increased gang violence at a time when police are overwhelmed and in fact called to protect other parts of the city. It is a time when the south part of Uptown has experienced dramatic gentrification and the poor find themselves moving north. It is a time of tension, hopefully this violence it will be the exception as citizens come together to make the streets safer.

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