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A familiar feeling, 2016

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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.

AdminA familiar feeling, 2016
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Continuing our campaign for Peace, 2010

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The success of the 2009 Chicago Peace Campaign was remarkable and inspired several of the leaders to do it again in the summer of 2010. Organizing for the 2010 effort got underway just little earlier than the original effort. But, without mass crisis (or at least the heavy media attention to the crisis) finding supporters, organizers and activists would prove much more challenging. But, God was still with the Campaign.

As the founding pastoral influence in Chicago Peace Campaign, Bishop Edward Peecher spearheaded the 2010 effort (the first ever organizing meeting for the campaign was hosted at his Kenwood home). The congregation at Chicago Embassy Church quickly signed up to support the work of the Peace Campaign in the Summer of 2010. And The Lord sent another pastor and another church to join the effort as well. Bishop James Dukes and the congregation at Liberation Christian Center came alongside to strengthen the work.

In this follow-up summer, we included all of the primary elements of the original Chicago Peace Campaign. But, with limited funding and limited participation, it was important to preserve the model without overtaxing the resources. So, all of the tactics were organized around an anchor tactic, Friday Night Lights.

We chose for a location a much more visible spot at the intersection of two major streets on the Southside of Chicago; 69th and Ashland. We chose the location in cooperation with local police and community leaders. The first night, it was apparent why they had recommended this spot. It was live. There drug dealers who seemed to be associated with a convenience store. There were all night fried food joints and people just hanging out on the corner. It was a brewing pot for the types of situations that lead to violence.

But, we just did our thing. We cleaned up on that corner (Peace Projects). We lent a listening ear to many and shared the gospel with some (Beautiful Feet). And we shined our lights and held up “Peace” signs and sang and prayed late into the night (Peaceful Speech/Friday Night Lights). And it was effective.

That summer, the convenience store that housed the drug dealers shut down. Eventually, the all night fried food joint was mostly empty (at least on Friday nights). While the drop wasn’t quit as precipitous as the previous summer, the violence numbers went down and the people in the community were tremendously blessed.

AdminContinuing our campaign for Peace, 2010
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Our first effort, 2009.

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There was an epidemic of violence.

In 2008-2009 school year, more than 500 of Chicago Public School students had been shot; many of them were killed. It was something that the city had not seen before. Or at least something we had not seen a very long time. It seemed that all of a sudden our young people were not safe even when they were not in the “wrong place” at the “wrong time”. It shook a lot of ministries to the core; especially youth ministries. We had to something.

On March 30, 2009 twenty people met in a living room in the Kenwood community. They gathered to discuss an idea that had been in several of their minds for a long time; the idea that through an organized mobilization effort, the church in Chicago, the people of Chicago could bring peace in place of violence in the city streets. They gathered to discuss the possibility of a peace campaign for Chicago, whereby the church could MAKE PEACE HAPPEN.

The meeting in Kenwood was profoundly diverse. There was a range of ages (from nineteen years old, to sixty-eight years old). There were grandparents, parents, and children; a college professor, and a former gang banger. There were pastors, students, business people, and a community organizer. This group agreed to go to work, to organize a campaign that would mobilize people to seek the peace of the city, to MAKE PEACE HAPPEN.

On Saturday, April 25 (just twenty-six days after that living room meeting), more than 200 people gathered at Chicago Embassy Church in Englewood at the first organizing meeting for the Chicago Peace Campaign.

The campaign launched that summer, targeting three communities with five core activities:
• Peacemakers Peace Projects – These service projects served as deterrents for violent behavior.

• Beautiful Feet (Door to Door Canvass) – “How beautiful are the feet of those that preach the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15). This initiative trained volunteers to become street pastors, becoming a positive, consistent presence in the streets.

• Peaceful Speech – We used various communications to spread the message of peace throughout the city.

• Pray for Peace – We organized a prayer network in Chicago to call on God for peace.

• Friday Night Lights (Outreach) – This effort became the flagship of the campaign. FNL was a street outreach that took place in rough neighborhoods on Friday night. We simply filled spaces that were susceptible to violence with an active peace.

Under the leadership of Bishop Edward Peecher, Chicago Embassy Church spearheaded the work in Englewood. Joel and Paula Hammernick of Sunshine Gospel Ministries (along with their dynamic team…Dave Clark, Pete and Nikki Blodget, Sarah Murphy and others) held it down in Woodlawn. And Pastor Phil Jackson of the House Covenant Church in Lawndale led Peace Campaign efforts in that Westside community.

By the end of the summer, things seemed to be moving in the right direction. The culture and environment in the small pockets where the Chicago Peace Campaign was active seemed to begin to change. In the Englewood police district, the Commander confirmed a precipitous, 15-point drop in violent crime. MAKE PEACE HAPPEN – was a reality.

AdminOur first effort, 2009.
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