The 2009 and 2010 efforts were organized in response to an acute increase in violent crime, particularly among young people and had an impact in stemming that tide. But, violence came back with a vengeance. In 2015 almost 3,000 people were shot in Chicago and more than 500 were killed. These rates of violence had not been seen in the city since the early 1990s following a major surge in the sale street drugs during the 1980s. The violence epidemic stunned the community and confounded the city leaders and police.
As has been the case in 2009, I felt led to organize the Chicago Peace Campaign. An effort that would mobilize churches and faith-based organizations to go out into the community and create the kind active, engaged peace that drives out violence. In the summer of 2016, we would re-launch the Chicago Peace Campaign with more partners and in more communities.
Organizing for the 2016 campaign got underway very early. We organized a friend-raiser/fundraiser in October of 2015 in order to jumpstart the conversation among leaders in the city. We knew that if the campaign was going to be success, we would need partners. After all, a lot had changed for all of us. We were older, some of us had children, we were much more involved in our respective careers and families than we had been when we originally launched the Chicago Peace Campaign in 2009. However, we were still called and committed.
This time around the campaign would recruit and train leaders from churches and faith-based organization on Peacemaking as a strategy in the Spring of 2016 (beginning in March). These leaders and the institutions they represent would be prepared to launch Peace Campaign efforts in their communities on Labor Day weekend. The Campaign would continue throughout the summer and culminate Memorial Day weekend. Over that time, churches would make a significant impact on violence indicators in Chicago.
The other big adjustment is that we focused the campaign solely on one tactic: Friday Night Lights. People have responded to the call. Leaders and institutions signed up to create peace campaign events in every corner of the city. The epidemic is worse than we have ever seen in Chicago with the impact of street violence compounded and complicated by an ongoing national battle for justice as it relates to police treatment of Black communities. This struggle is particularly acute in Chicago because the Mayor and other top officials have been labeled by activist as being on the wrong side of this great struggle.
Yet, we believe that Bible is true in saying that “where sin abounds, grace much more abounds”. We are confident that God is doing his work through the Chicago Peace campaign this summer just as He has in previous summers and that the impact will be felt in every community where churches are serving.