FAITH MATTERS: Faith communities must join to curb street violence
By Jimmy E. Jones
IN his book, “Terror in the Mind of God,” Mark Juergensmeyer argues that terrorism would not be possible among Jewish, Christian and Muslim extremists without the support of “communities of violence.”
He means that there are Jews, Christians and Muslims who would not commit acts of terrorism, but verbally rationalize or silently support people such as Baruch Goldstein (Hebron massacre of Muslims in 1994), Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bombing in1995) or the 19 Arab hijackers of Sept. 11.
Further, he argues that until we understand and take ownership of this basic point, we will not be able to fight terrorism effectively.
On the streets of New Haven during the past year, we have experienced a very deadly form of terrorism. If, as Juergensmeyer argues, the purpose of terrorism is to intimidate, we see this very clearly on the streets of New Haven as the result of gun violence by youths and convicted felons.
The activities of these young men are too often supported by “communities of violence.” That is, there are those in New Haven who would never pick up a gun themselves, but offer opinions such as: “They have to carry something. These streets are dangerous.”
Such people are a big part of the problem, as many young men see such an attitude as a clear endorsement of carrying guns. Family, friends or neighbors who know about youths or felons carrying guns, yet remain silent, are part of the problem as well.
It is in the recognition of this and other problems that the Dwight Central Management Team and the West River Neighborhood Corp. in August decided to join their long-standing efforts to deal with gun violence in the Dwight and West River neighborhoods.
This partnership gave birth to the Reclaiming Our Community Coalition. With the additional founding members, Blockwatch 311 and the Youth Empowerment Squad of Masjid Al-Islam, the coalition has convened a series of community meetings aimed at thinking about how to reclaim neighborhoods from the “community of violence” mentality.
The coalition believes this effort cannot be successful unless it can get local faith communities involved. Therefore, it is requesting that clergy who are available attend a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 9 in the second-floor conference room of the Greater Dwight Development Corp., 230 Edgewood Ave. Please join them and show that faith really matters.
Jimmy E. Jones is board chairman of Masjid Al-Islam, chairman of Blockwatch 311, chairman of World Religions at Manhattanville College and chairman of the Islamic Seminary Foundation. Write to him at 624 George St., New Haven 06511. Email: