By Jessica Easthope
This year there have been more than 600 shootings in the streets of New York, crime the city hasn’t seen since the 1980s.
“This proves more and more that what we need in this world is some real real real faith,” said Father Frank Black the pastor of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Father Black says he barely recognized his parish neighborhood. Crown Heights has seen nearly a dozen shootings just this month.
“Breaking into people’s businesses, shooting other people, drive-by shootings, that’s not pro life,” said Father Black.
Violence is fundamentally at odds with church teaching. To be pro-life is to respect all stages of life from conception to natural death, something Father Black says is not happening in New York right now.
In July alone, 239 shooting incidents have been reported, a 210 percent increase from last year.
The shootings surge comes as the NYPD disbanded its Anti-Crime Unit, a plainclothes group of officers that worked to keep illegal guns off the streets but had a large number of complaints.
Another area hard hit by gun violence is Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“The violence in our community has to come to an end especially for our young people for them to grow in a place where they can walk the streets of the community in a peaceful manner is important,” said Father Alonzo Cox the pastor of St. Martin de Porres church.
Father Cox says the church needs to focus on young people if it ever wants to help curb violence and fulfill its role in the community.
“What we have to do is be an example to our youth and those who we want to guide and it’s our responsibility to be those leaders and those examples,” said Father Cox.
Father Cox has been holding virtual forums for the youth of his parish, allowing them to express their frustrations as well as their hopes for the future of their city.
“Trying our best through the gift of social media to reach out to our youth, our young people here at the parish want to see peace, they want an end to this violence and they want to get out into the community,” said Father Cox.
At a time when a swirl of violence is moving rapidly through the city, pastors say the power of prayer and peace can be much stronger.