People of faith can offer solutions Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

People of faith may provide some solutions to the unrest in our country over the deaths of civilians by police officers.

Like many others, I have been discussing these matters with people at home and work. We can understand the challenges faced by law enforcement in dealing with situations in their communities. Police officers are trying to protect citizens, but they can also find themselves in danger.

Living in tense times

I can sympathize with police officers who feel threatened and may react instinctively. They may not have time to consider all the options.

On the other hand, I can also sympathize with people who may be stopped by police with little or no provocation. Racial profiling is still happening in this country.

One law-abiding black man — who has a college degree and owns his own business — said recently in a radio interview that he has been stopped several times by police for no reason. This man is concerned about his own son and what might happen to him in such a situation.

We are living in tense times. How can we help alleviate the tension and live in peace with each other?

Priest encourages ‘leaning in’

Fr. Robert Rosebrough is the pastor of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Ferguson, Mo. He walked through the area after the violent protests following the grand jury announcement that Police Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the death of Michael Brown, reported Catholic News Service.

“My heart was very saddened and disappointed with the violence, looting, and destruction of property,” the priest wrote on the parish website. “The effects of hatred, violence, and hopelessness have a tremendously rippling impact upon the lives of many people.”

Father Rosebrough said, “When you are filled with hopelessness, there is no room in (your) heart to think about the consequences of (your) actions. It is in this world of brokenness that Jesus Christ came in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.”

The priest has called Ferguson the “New Bethlehem,” ground zero where change can be made in society by “leaning in” and truly listening to the words of others. “When we listen to the stories of others, when we hear their pains and frustrations and they hear ours, we discover that we are brothers and sisters,” he said.

Bringing people together

Faith communities can assist in bringing people together to find solutions. Dr. Norm White, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at St. Louis University, was quoted in a CNA/EWTN News article, “I think the churches could be very instrumental in fostering and stimulating that conversation,” he said, insisting that people of faith need to go “outside the comfort of boundaries” and invite members of other congregations and ethnicities into their churches for dialogue.

Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis would agree. He has said, “We need to come together in prayer and dialogue to address the deeper underlying issues — family breakdown, racial profiling, quality education, abuses of authority, lack of gainful employment, fear of one another, mistrust of authority, black on black violence, and white flight.”

Churches in the Diocese of Madison might also consider praying for deeper understanding and offering opportunities for dialogue to address many of these issues that we all face in our communities. We can arrive at solutions if we all work together.