The 10 Commandments have been
drilled into me since I was young. Whether it was through Vacation Bible School,
religious education, retreats, or whatever other church related education, these
10 "ways of being a good follower of God" have been part of my life since I can
remember. Unfortunately, in pretty much all communities around the world, the
5th commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," seems to have been forgotten.
Here in New Orleans, our visionary
Archbishop Gregory Aymond has asked all parishes, schools, diocesan offices,
etc. to pray "Our Family Prayer"
as we fight the "New Battle of New Orleans" against murder, violence, and
racism. Violence has been out of control in New Orleans for some time, and "One
murder is too many," as Archbishop Aymond says. Our police resources don't match
up the violence that continues to plague our neighborhoods. The lack of respect
for life can be seen in all levels of society from the elected officials to
those committing violent crimes in the streets.
The latest effort in the Archdiocese of New Orleans
is to put up banners and send out 5,000 yard signs that say, "Thou
Shalt Not Kill - God"
According to Archbishop Aymond, the purpose of these signs is to, "increase
awareness that we are all in this together and to add a spiritual tone to this
battleā¦Some people who are disposed to violence and murder might see these signs
and think twice. If we have thousands of these signs all over the archdiocese,
perhaps someone will have a second thought." In addition to the prayer and yard
signs, the archdiocese has also launched the Isaiah 43 program
to help with Parenting Skills and to provide youth from all
backgrounds with positive mentors from their communities.
Another program that is taking place is the City of
New Orleans's "Flip the Script/NOLA For Life" program. This program looks at changing the messages that
black males see written about themselves in newspapers and "flipping the script"
to a more positive message. Billboards have been put up all around the city with
the help of Director/Producer Spike Lee.
The main purpose of these, and other programs to
combat violence, is to remind us that murder is not just a problem that
affects a specific demographic. Violence in any community throughout our
country affects everyone. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., "Injustice
anywhere, affects justice everywhere." Such is the case when it comes to
violence. Most people have a disrespect for life because their lives have
been disrespected. This does not justify killing/violence, but can help us
understand ways to address the issue. Let me be clear this is not just a
problem that affects New Orleans or inner cities. Looking at the news we see
that violence is taking place all over the world and in all areas of our
In my own personal life, I have lost too many
family, friends, church members, and even youth to violence. It never gets
easier. The pain is like a wound being reopened every time I receive a call
saying someone was killed. The sad thing is that this type of situation
happens too often in communities throughout our country.
So what does our faith teach us? In Caritas in
Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI states, "The Church forcefully maintains this
link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that 'a society
lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the
dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand,
radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways
in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or
marginalized." We are also taught through the USCCB that, "As a gift from
God, every human life is sacred from conception to death." So no form of
human life is "expendable" since we are all made in the image and likeness
We, as Catholics, are blessed with our rich
history and tradition. Through our faith, we are drawn closer to the love of
a Savior that died for our sins. We are truly blessed. God valued life so
much that He came to make our lives right with Him. We are called to do the
same for all forms of life from "the womb to the tomb." The programs that
are offered through our church parishes and other institutions like Catholic
Charities do so many great things with very little attention but we are
always called to do more to spread the Gospel. Everything we do as people of
faith is to help us realize who we are, but more importantly Whose we are.
When we realize that we are children of the most High God, we think about
ourselves differently and we treat others differently. This is why it is so
important for us to reach out to all of our brothers and sisters and let
them hear the "Good News" by any means necessary - even if it is a sign in