Comforting the loved ones and burying the victims of violence is a painful and all-too-frequent task for many Kansas City church pastors.
On Monday, more than 50 leaders from area congregations gathered downtown to announce their commitment to stopping the violence.
“The mayor called for us to stand up, and here we are,” said Senior Minister Bob Hill of the Community Christian Church.
The faith-based community is being recruited as a partner in the city’s No Violence Alliance, a multi-faceted approach to combating violent crime.
The strategy has proven successful in other cities, where 30 percent reductions in violent crime have not been uncommon.
In Kansas City, the police department, Jackson County and federal prosecutors, Missouri probation and parole and the mayor’s office are working together to institute KC NoVa.
The strategy combines targeted law enforcement efforts toward those engaged in violent behavior with access to social services such as education, job training and substance abuse treatment for those seeking to escape the criminal lifestyle.
Enlisting the help of the faith-based community is a key part of spreading the KC NoVa message that violence will no longer be tolerated in Kansas City, Mayor Sly James said at Monday’s event outside City Hall.
“This is a new approach we should have had a long time ago,” James said. “If we are going to have an impact on violence in this city, we have to do it together.”
Clergy members work with people in their communities every day and are in a unique position to reach those seeking a way other than crime to find the help they need, James said.
Michael Brooks, a city council member and church pastor, said an effort like KC NoVa has been a long time coming.
“Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long-term solution,” Brooks said.
Rabbi Doug Alpert of Congregation Kol Ami spoke about the need for everyone in the area to embrace the fight against violent crime, not just those who live in crime-ridden neighborhoods.
For too long, people have categorized it as an “east-of-Troost problem,” he said.
Alpert called that “inexcusable complacency.”
Alpert said the victims of crime can’t be thought of as “their” children.
“They must be seen as our kids and my kids,” he said.
Hill ended Monday’s rally with a prayer and a vow from the gathered church leaders.
“We are one on this,” he said. “We are not going away and we will prevail with peace.”