‘The violence that happens east of us affects us too’ - Beverly churches call for a ‘day without murder’ March 27

By Michelle Martin
Sunday, February 7, 2016

Beverly might not be the first neighborhood to come to mind for a campaign to reduce homicide in the city of Chicago.

It’s one of a handful of Southwest Side neighborhoods that had no murders at all in 2015, and none so far in 2016.

But that doesn’t mean that Beverly residents are unaffected by violence in the city, said Father William Malloy, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish, 10134 S. Longwood Drive.

“The violence that happens east of us affects us too,” said Malloy, who is part of a group of ecumenical and interfaith clergy from the neighborhood calling for a day without murder in the city. They day they chose to focus on is March 27, Easter Sunday.

The group has launched an online campaign,, that asks people to sign a petition and invites them to become more educated about the causes of violence and what they can do to stop it.

For Malloy, the impetus came from seeing the Chicago Tribune’s map of shootings in Chicago in late 2015 and being amazed at the number.

“There were blue dots everywhere showing someone got shot,” Malloy said. “There were 2,973 shootings in Chicago in 2015, and 2,587 the year before. There is so much violence here in our city. The problem is huge.”

There were 468 people reported killed in Chicago in 2015. Fifty-one more people were reported killed in January.

Rev. Karen Mooney, pastor of the Beverly Unitarian Universalist Church, 10244 S. Longwood Drive, said she felt the need to do something after putting “Black Lives Matter” on the church’s electronic sign in September 2015.

The reaction — including threats on the church’s Facebook page — surprised her, and the church determined the message was too controversial and took it down. That sparked a backlash from other segments of the community, she said.

“It was polarizing, and polarization does not lead to dialogue,” she said. “We needed something that would spark curiosity and intrigue. What we needed in our community was a deeper conversation about the history of racialized violence in our midst.”

So far, no one has objected to the idea of working to reduce the number of murders in the city, she said. Both faith leaders acknowledged that the idea is simple, but they hope it will grow.

“It’s very idealistic, and maybe there’s a fine line between idealism and naivete,” Malloy said. “But if we can get several hundred thousand signatures, it might call attention to the dilemma, to the value of human life. This really is a pro-life effort.”

“Inspiration always carries a little danger,” Mooney said. “It makes you ask, ‘Is it possible to do this?’” The first marker of success for the campaign would be for there to be so much awareness that Chicago records no murders on Easter Sunday, Mooney said. But even if someone is killed, she hopes the campaign will lead people to understand that the violent death of anyone in the city affects all of us.

“This is a vision that allows us to live out our core value that our community includes every human life and every human soul,” she said.

A meeting Jan. 16, timed to fall on the weekend of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, drew 127 people. Organizers are hoping for more at a Feb. 27 prayer service at St. Barnabas.

That service will include Eugene Williams, who commands the Chicago Police Departments Bureau of Administration and is president of the Chicago chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; Father Michael Pfleger, senior pastor of St. Sabina Parish, 1210 W. 78th Place and longtime antiviolence advocate; and Precious Blood Father David Kelly, executive director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation.

Kelly said efforts like Thou Shall Not Murder are important, but they have to go a step further.

“What’s going to come out of this?” he said. “You get things like this, or marches or prayer services, and they are good, but you need follow up.”

One thing churches can do, he said, is give young people a connection to the community.

“The church is a good place to do this,” he said. “But a lot of these young people, they walk into a church and they feel like everyone is looking at them. They feel like they don’t belong.”

If churches or other organizations can be welcoming spaces, they can start to build relationships, he said.

“Once I have a relationship with that young person, I can connect him to a school or other education, maybe a job, mental health resources,” he said.

Those next steps will be important, Mooney said, but they can’t be settled until the organization hears more from churches and other organizations that work directly in areas more beset by violence about what they really need.

“This is a starting place,” she said. “We are going to listen to people who are on the streets right now. But what we need to understand is that if we want change, we have to change. It’s not somebody else. It’s us.”


  • gun violence
  • st. barnabas
  • father pfleger
  • non-violence
  • beverly
  • day without murder
  • beverly unitarian universalist church

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