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We must do something about violence...
Chicago has been plagued by a chronically high homicide rate. In 2012, 532 people were killed; nearly 2,700 were shot. Almost half of all murder victims are between the ages of 10 and 25.
Calls to 911 for domestic violence numbered over 94,000 in the first six months of 2012, and experts say an even larger number go unreported. In 2011, women placed over 90% of the 26,000 calls received by Chicago's Domestic Violence Helpline.
In a February, 2013 speech at Chicago's Hyde Park Academy, President Barack Obama said 65 children were killed by gun violence last year in Chicago. "That's the equivalent of a Newtown [CT] every four months," he said. Twenty children were among the dead in the Newtown massacre. "This is not just a gun issue," Obama said. "It's also an issue of the kinds of communities that we're building, and for that we all share responsibility as citizens to fix it. We all share a responsibility to move this country closer to our founding vision, that no matter who you were or where you come from, here in America, you can decide your own destiny."
City leaders continue to grapple with how to reduce violence. Violence is considered to be a symptom of poor civic health, so it is widely understood that the only way to reduce violence is to the improve the social ills that precede it.
In other parts of the the world, people suffer from extreme forms of social inequality. Yet, civic health remains strong. This results in drastically lower rates of street crime and urban violence. This brings in question the widely accepted premise that poverty and social injustice inevitably cause urban violence.
What we're doing...
Co-founded by Holy Family Ministries, The Peace Exchange is a community-based, educationally-focused and young adult-led effort to understand violence and foster peace in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods: Austin, Lawndale, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Little Village, Englewood and Uptown. Each of our community partners is sponsoring a young adult Peace Builder--there are six, ages 19 to 25--who are training in topics that range from domestic/gender violence, conflict resolution and genocide to the impact of violence on mental health.
Accompanied by a documentary film crew from partner Free Spirit Media, our Peace Builders will spend December 26, 2013 to January 9, 2014 in Thailand and Myanmar. There they will engage local peace activists as well as social and spiritual leaders to study how Thai and Burmese societies maintain strikingly low levels of street crime and urban violence, despite persistent social inequality and poverty.
Beginning in March, 2014 and aided by a 15-minute documentary, Peace Builders will meet with at least 1000 youth from community, school and church groups. Peace Builders will share their experiences and observations on how cultural, spiritual and social factors may contribute to either peace or violence. They'll form relationships with youth, school, church and community groups that will enable our Peace Builders to continue to lead, educate and mentor.