Daniel Schultz has an excellent round-up of the faith-based efforts to reduce gun violence on the website of Christian Century. It includes both Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, whose leader, Vinny DeMarco, recently spoke to the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops and CROSSwalk, an initiative of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.
In fall 2010, activist Vincent DeMarco, working under the auspices of the Brady Campaign, began to pull together a broad faith-based coalition. The project, modeled on DeMarco’s successful antitobacco work, eventually became Faiths United. Years of partnerships through the NCC and elsewhere paid off: DeMarco’s coalition started with 17 charter members and quickly expanded.
This year, Faiths United has worked with Auburn Seminary’s Auburn Action program to translate its statement into action: a recent Faiths Calling event generated more than 10,000 phone contacts with congressional offices. Auburn Action also supports several state-level petition drives and one in the Los Angeles region, along with a multifaith Gun Violence Sabbath sponsored by the PICO National Network.
Chicago has seen a startling uptick in gun violence in recent years. In 2012, 2,400 people were shot there; 435 of them were killed. Early last year, All Saints Episcopal Church responded by organizing an event just before Holy Week: CROSSwalk, a liturgical procession across downtown Chicago to remember the victims and press for change.
The turnout—1,500 participants—was impressive enough to convince the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago to make it an ongoing project. CROSSwalk Chicago director Jacqueline Clark expects 2,500 people to come out on the Friday before Holy Week for the second annual event. Others will get involved by advocating for tighter straw-purchasing regulations or volunteering to build and maintain memorials to slain children.
Like Heeding God’s Call, CROSSwalk Chicago works hard to build a local coalition to address a chronic problem. Clark speaks of the “very slow work” of “building relationships across lines.” Still, she works with a sense of urgency. “Aurora is like a weekend in Chicago,” she says, referring to the 2012 Colorado shooting that killed 12 and injured dozens. “Not that Aurora isn’t particularly horrifying,” she clarifies. But the comparison serves as “a reminder that this violence is taking place in our city and in many cities” day to day—not just in mass shootings.