Faith communities work together for safer neighborhoods

v32n1interfaith

by Kara Hansen

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Catholics and members of other faiths from the urban core are countering the fog of fear with the light of faith.

Members of three Catholic parishes, a Jewish congregation, and four Protestant churches gathered to lift up the issues of crime and safety to God during an interfaith prayer service on June 21 at Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, Kan.

“The purpose of the prayer service was to call people from several different faith traditions into action,” said Monica Tyrrell, a Christ the King parishioner. “We also wanted to bring an awareness of personal safety into the neighborhoods. We all believe in the same God, and we want to help keep our people safe.”

The event drew Catholics from Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady and St. Rose, and Christ the King parishes. Protestant churches that participated were Lutheran, Zionist, African Methodist Episcopal, and Baptist.

The prayer service was organized by members of Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO), a faith-based group that empowers citizens to improve the quality of life in their community.

“Through the organizing we have done with CCO and conversations we have had with people across Wyandotte and Johnson County, it’s been clear people are fearful about home invasions and personal safety in general when they are out and about,” said Tyrrell.

It is particularly timely to be addressing issues of safety during summer.
“Kids are out of school during the summer, and crime rates go up, especially when employment issues are dire like they are right now,” she said.

The prayer service included a reading from the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk, music, communal prayer, a reading from Mother Teresa, a reading from the Jewish Talmud, and a reading from Martin Luther King Jr.

“In situations of crime we can forget who our Source is,” said Tyrrell. “This was a coming together and letting God work through us.”

The prayer service emphasized the common bond of faith linking all participants, regardless of religious tradition.

“The Holy Spirit was obviously present in this place because no one discussed what we were each going to speak about prior to the event, and yet it flowed together perfectly,” she said.

Tyrrell said despite the differences in faiths, all present shared the same goal: to make their community and neighborhoods safer.

“We’re all looking to make things better. And when we pray together, we can accomplish great things,” she said. “We are proud to be Catholic, but also proud to embrace other people who worship the same God.”

In addition to prayer and spiritual reflection, a police officer came to speak to the gathering of about 100 people, providing information about how to increase awareness and safety. He also provided information on a citizens training academy that provides further education on safety, should anyone be interested in pursuing it.

Though safety is a concern for all ages, Tyrrell said she has found many elderly feel particularly vulnerable, both in their homes as well as when they are out and about. She hoped the prayer service and safety information provided was just the start of improving communities and neighborhoods.

“We have a vision of a better, safer community for all God’s people, and we have to consider what everyone’s going through,” she said. “I felt people were energized and called to action, and I came away with feeling I know I can do more to reduce crime in the community.”

The next gathering will be held at 5:30 p.m. on July 14 at Christ the King Parish.

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