Members of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri are coming together in prayer and calls for peace after a Grand Jury decided not to indict the police officer who shot and killed a young black man in Ferguson last August.
According to Vatican Radio, St. Louis’ Archbishop Robert Carlson issued a statement immediately following last night’s announcement that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the killing of Michael Brown, 18, on August 9 during a street altercation. Even as violence erupted in the streets of Ferguson, and across the United States, Carlson pleaded for peace.
“For several months our community has nervously waited as a grand jury has deliberated the evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. I and other religious and civic leaders have repeatedly called for prayer, peace, and calm. Since the grand jury received the case in August, we have seen offensive and violent outbursts by protesters, and acts of civil disobedience. Despite our calls for peace, which Michael Brown’s family have echoed, we continue to see that segments of our community have not fully renounced the tendency to lash out with antagonistic behavior and violence.”
He continued: “I implore each of you: Choose peace! Reject any false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. Let’s work for a better, stronger, more holy community— one founded upon respect for each other, respect for life, and our shared responsibility for the common good.”
His words went unheeded by the masses of mostly African American residents who flooded into the streets of Ferguson and St. Louis, torching buildings, smashing cars and firing so many weapons into the air that the airspace over St. Louis had to be shut down. Some 61 people were arrested on charges ranging from unlawful assembly to arson and burglary.
Earlier in the evening, the Archbishop held a prayer service at Blessed Theresa of Calcutta parish in Ferguson, one of two parishes in the embattled town. Only a week ago, Blessed Therese of Calcutta and nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe parish celebrated Masses with a theme of “Peace and Justice” in anticipation of the Ferguson decision. A “Faith in Ferguson” weekly Rosary was held at Blessed Theresa on a weekly basis from August 11 to October 27.
This is the way to combat injustice, Archbishop Carlson said, through prayer and positive action – not violence.
“I know that many feel hurt, betrayed, forgotten and powerless,” Archbishop Carlson said. “I know anger, disappointment, resentment and fear abound in our community at this moment, but we must accept this decision as the proper functioning of our justice system. … We all want justice, so we should respect the integrity of our system of justice as something that aims for the common good. This grand jury decision is not an excuse for more violence.
“Now is the time to channel emotions in a way that helps build up our community, to become more active in your church or religious community, to volunteer at a food pantry or community service organization, to take part in political activity, to mentor a young person.
“Whatever you do, do not lash out with violence at your brothers and sisters. Do not seek to destroy or divide. Instead, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness if we are to obtain peace. Rather than fuel the fires of hatred and division, we should strive for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us. Violence does not lead to peace; they are opposing forces and cannot co-exist.”
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