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Stone-Cold Predators

Christine Yount Jones


GOD LIVES!
In the late '80's, the Rev. Eugene Rivers and a group of ministers in Boston knew firsthand what it meant to live in a war zone, with children as the embattled soldiers. So they hit the streets to talk to the people who had the best insight into babies gone wrong. These ministers asked drug dealers, "Why are we having the drive-by shootings, the escalating street violence, the increased alienation?"


And the answer that one of the drug dealers, now deceased, gave them was simple but profound. He said, "The reason this is happening is when these kids get up in the morning and go to school, I'm there; you're not. They come home from school, I'm there; you're not. When they need a pair of sneakers, I'm there; you're not. And it's as simple as that."


Rivers' coalition of 37 churches gets people-especially men-in relationship with these kids as positive role models. In December of 1996, Boston had gone 17 months without a youth homicide. And the homicide rate among 10 to 24-year-olds there is down 70 percent from last year. There are likely a number of factors contributing to this radical decrease in juvenile crime, but the eyes of faith see God at work through this coalition.


Professor DiIulio is convinced that it's God's people who can most help abandoned and hurting children. "The churches come in for a very simple reason...There are kids who don't have any adults in their lives to supervise them. We need to get adults in the lives of these at-risk kids. And in these places, the only real centers of activity and outreach are the churches."


"The churches are the single most powerful potential engine of rescuing-and in many cases resurrecting-the well-being of America's most at-risk children," DiIulio asserts. "The churches and all the denominations are capable of doing a lot more than they're doing."


According to DiIulio, we have to focus on the black youth crime problem in the inner cities. "There are 60,000 to 65,000 churches that have predominately black congregations in this country-many concentrated in urban areas," explains DiIulio. "And these churches are doing a tremendous number of things right now. There are enormous numbers of people who want to get involved.


"The difficulty often is that you have a minister in a neighborhood where there are problems in the community and he or she doesn't know where to turn. The church would like to build an annex for kids to come after school and have a place to learn, read, or do Bible study, but they don't know where to go to find a grant or get hooked up with a private foundation that might help. They don't know how to mobilize by pooling human and financial resources with other churches.


"I think the answer for those churches is a national mobilization of black churches that will create a network of funding, technical assistance, and information sharing. We've seen that develop in Boston through the work of Rev. Rivers at Azusa Christian Community and the other coalition members who have come together around a 10-point plan of youth community outreach.


"Rivers talks about mobilizing a thousand black churches, 40 in each of 25 big cities in the worst neighborhoods, or alternatively 50 in 20, but we're a long, long way from that. Our initial goal is to shore up and further strengthen both the financial and the volunteer base in Boston and to take a version of what has happened in Boston and help bring people and resources to Philadelphia to help what's already going on there...We have a fighting chance of making this happen. We don't have any illusions of grandeur that this is going to solve the problem, but there are lots of candles that can be lit."™

If you would like to know more about how to become part of the Ten Point Coalition, contact Virginia Ward at (617) 524-4331.

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