The Peace Keepers of Wilmington, Delaware, are interfaith volunteers who gather at the scene of recent shootings to pray and comfort grieving families and spread a message of justice, peace, and love. Their work demonstrates that the tongue is mightier than the gun.
A recent article in Newsweek magazine called Wilmington “murder town USA,” because it once again ranked third on “the FBI’s annual list of most violent cities among cities of comparable size.”
At a meeting last week in downtown Wilmington at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, Delaware’s Deputy Attorney General, Daniel Logan, recounted the difficulty of getting eye witnesseses after a shooting to share information with police. “I can go home,” he said. They (those who saw what went down) are already home.” Especially when there have been many persons at the scene of a shooting it’s hard to get even one to serve as a witness, Logan revealed. He didn’t spell out the reason for this, but it’s not hard to figure out. Obviously, folks don’t completely trust their neighbors. When many have seen what happened, no one can be sure whether another in the group might snitch about a snitcher. So everyone keeps mum.
How to create a culture of peace where neighbors can’t be trusted? That’s the prime challenge for the Peace Keepers, it seems to me. Expressing compassion and support to victims of gun violence is important, of course, but is that enough to make neighbors feel safe? How does one break through a tyrrany of fear which emprisons neighborhoods in silent acquiescence?
In the long term I believe that the tongue is mightier than the gun. That’s what Malala Yousafzai demonstrated when she refused to be intimidated by Taliban assassins. Even had she died from their attack, her testimony about peace and justice would have lived on to inspire others. Malala’s strong, joyful, peaceful spirit prevails, come what may.
When Wilmington Peace Keepers put on orange it is not only to protect themselves from passing cars and trucks. Theirs is a uniform which cannot be overlooked! Bright orange identifies them as bearers of light. They have come out of the shadows to stand up and be counted. They refuse any longer to keep silent, for they are determined to tell the truth.
My conviction derives not from fairy tale. I am a veteran. I have heard the hissing of passing lead. Who would not be afraid under such circumstances? But one can rise above fear, and when one does, one’s example inspires others. Then, a group of petrified individuals begins to take courage, and galvanize. One by one they cast off fear to work together as one. I’m convinced, and so are the Peace Keepers, that neighborhoods can be awakened that way. May God bless those with unrelenting courage who are standing up to be counted, and may holy spirit draw more to their circle of light.