This Memorial Day weekend marked a historic uptick in violence in many US cities. Three cities seem to symbolize our national woes the most - Baltimore, Chicago, and Ferguson. In Baltimore 9 people were killed and 29 shot. Chicago marked 12 killed and 44 wounded. The police in Baltimore and the other cities seem to be moving with unprecedented caution. Further, self initiated policing has slowed down significantly. The morale of law enforcement officers is at a decadal low. Therefore, both violent and petty crimes may flourish in several "hot spot" cities this summer. In Ferguson, sky rocketing crime rates continue despite greater civic involvement by citizens and a massive change in municipal personnel. Law enforcement seems to be becoming more difficult in key cities.
Does the violence in these cities mark the unofficial beginning of a new season of urban violence? Is this the beginning of the worst season of both rioting and lawlessness the US has seen since 1968 after the assassination of Dr. King? Last September I wrote that rioting in DC was possible after the Ferguson riots broke out in August 2014. I had no idea that there would be such a dramatic increase in both incendiary rhetoric and demonstrations. Our cities are still vulnerable to problems and riots. 175 metro areas supported the "hands up don't shoot" initiative and 50 cities protested the death of Eric Garner with "I can't breathe" demonstrations. A myriad of cell phone videos from South Carolina to Mckinney, Texas have started to erode public respect for our policemen. There is no reason why there will not be more riots and spontaneous violence this summer - except for the grace of God.
We can turn this bus around, though! But it must be done very decisively and strategically. Smoldering "urban anger" is still burning. This is not just a race problem. There is interplay between class, poverty, and race. When all three of these things converge, people feel disenfranchised and excluded from the American dream. more >>
A Vatican City spokesman has announced the creation of a new tribunal meant to deal with cases against Roman Catholic bishops who failed to stop sexual abuse of minors by priests.
Centered on examining allegations against bishops who failed to report sexual abuse cases to authorities, the tribunal will be held within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"Pope Francis will appoint a secretary and permanent staff for the new department, which will have a five year period to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of these new procedures," reported Vatican Radio on Wednesday. more >>
Pakistani Prison officials have confirmed that a Catholic death row inmate, who was tortured into confessing to three murders over 23 years ago when he was just 15 years old, was executed on Wednesday.
Aftab Bahadur, who was convicted of the 1992 killings of Sabiha Bari and her two sons, was hanged at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore, but not before he had one last chance to proclaim his innocence.
"Aftab Bahadur was hanged at District Jail Lahore on Wednesday at 4.30 a.m.," an unnamed prison official told Reuters. "Before the hanging, he was crying and saying he was innocent." more >>
Being a chaplain inside a family detention center is an exercise in impossibility. How do you encourage mothers to cry, fearful for their psychological and spiritual well being if they hold everything in, when you know it terrifies their children to see them weep? How do you help people begin to heal when their trauma is ongoing? How do you connect despairing but tenaciously faithful mothers with communities on the outside, as a tiny way to break through their isolation?
As a Sister of Mercy, these questions were part of the reality I witnessed firsthand during my two-month service as interim chaplain at the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC), a detention facility for mothers and children.
For nearly a year, the rapid construction of family detention centers in the U.S. for women and children has resulted in makeshift, overcrowded conditions, mistreatment, health issues, and even malnutrition. Public outrage forced closure of the New Mexico family detention center last winter, yet the Obama administration continues to pursue the failed practice despite the fact that we have a moral obligation to uphold the rights of women and children seeking asylum. more >>
Days before the Justice Conference opened last Friday, conference organizers almost cancelled the event's headline speaker, Dr. Cornel West. That's according to Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief, which sponsored the conference. Bauman said West – a prominent socialist, activist, and proponent of black liberation theology – sparked considerable protest from World Relief's conservative constituency.
"Cornel West is controversial among conservatives," Bauman said. "And, some of those conservatives were concerned about Cornel West's track record, his history . . . And, I respect that. I understand that."
During the conference, Bauman told me that he and conference organizers decided to keep West because they wanted to "have dialogue about the things (West) may see differently than others," like race relations. They also felt West was someone who is "deeply in love with Jesus." more >>
A massacre of Christians in Lahore, Pakistan, was prevented back in May partly due to three Muslim leaders standing up against other Islamic imams inciting a mass attack on Christians for alleged blasphemy. A total of 22 Muslims have so far been arrested in the incident.
Fides News Agency reported on Tuesday that Christian lawyers in the region are speaking out about the incident, which occurred on May 24. Local Christian man Humayun Faisal was accused of burning pages of the Quran, which is considered blasphemous, and has led to mob attacks on Christians in a number of cases.
Police saved Faisal from the lynching by arresting him, but Islamic protesters then turned their anger toward the Christian community in the neighborhood where the man lived. more >>