Religious Leaders Urge Citizens to â€œSave their Communitiesâ€
A group of West Side Chicago ministers is urging the community to provide information about the person responsible for shooting six people outside a funeral service. The clergy say violence in Chicago has now gotten completely out of hand and what used to be considered â€œsacred ground,â€ is now being discarded by gangs. In addition to offering a $1,000 reward, the group is urging the community to change their mindset about crime and relations with police officers to help stem violence in Chicago.
â€œWe are not afraid and we are here to save our community from our community. This is not an accurate representation of who we are,â€ said Rev. John Abercrombie. â€œIf you are sick, have drug problems or economic issues, weâ€™re pastors and weâ€™re here to help you. People in Austin are good people.â€
The shooting occurred on Sat., Aug. 1 around noon outside the Gospel Truth Life Changing Ministries in the South Austin neighborhood where a funeral was taking place for a self-admitted gang member. Witnesses were not cooperating with police, which is something clergy members say is becoming a bigger problem by the day.
â€œI want you to know that we need to cooperate with the police because this isnâ€™t some sort of anarchy,â€ said Rev. Ira Acree of the L.E.A.D.E.R.â€™s Network, who called for the press conference.
â€œNow is not the time to be silent,â€ Abercrombie said. â€œWhen crimes are being committed it is not the time to be silent. Silence is not always golden; at times it can be dangerous.â€
Rev. Marshall Hatch said it is difficult to turn in people who you know, especially if the individuals are family members, but the greater good is the good of the community. He said for far too long family members have been protecting their relatives who they know are doing immoral and illegal deeds.
â€œYou have a responsibility, even if it is a family member, to turn that information over to the police,â€ Hatch said.
The Austin community has been hit hard by violence this summer. So much so, longtime residents are now considering seeking safety in other areas, including leaving Chicago all together.
â€œI love Chicago with all my heart, but itâ€™s getting worse and there donâ€™t seem to be any solutions,â€ said Michelle Longs, a mother of four.
â€œI mean, you pay your property taxes and then you have to live with this violence every day. My friends who live in other parts of the country think Iâ€™m crazy for staying here, because unlike others, I do have more options. At this point I have to think about my kidsâ€™ safety more so than my personal love for Chicago.â€
Rev. Cy Fields said this is not just a West Side issue because an act of violence upon any church is a threat to all churches. He said something really bad is happening when shootings are happening outside places of worship.