The Thou Shalt Not Murder coalition is calling for a murder moratorium in Chicago on Easter Sunday, March 27 as part of an effort to curb gun violence.
Expressing outrage over the 488 homicides and 2,986 shootings in Chicago last year, the group assembled for a three-hour meeting Jan. 16 in the basement of St. Barnabas Catholic Church in Chicago’s South Side Beverly neighborhood. Organizers of the “Thou Shalt Not Murder” campaign included ministers from Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood neighborhoods.
Amid heartfelt prayers, songs and impassioned speeches, the Rev. Michael Hayes, a Pentecostal minister and chaplain for Loyola University Medical Center, described the heartbreak from families torn by gun violence. He also suggested “this campaign be the spark, the mobilization of volunteerism to make the space between what elected officials are giving us and what we need, close altogether.”
The Rev. Karen Mooney, a minister at Beverly Unitarian Church on the South Side, said: “Our purpose is to get Chicagoans to understand this problem and to ask, what is murder? What can we do to stop it?”
Last summer, Beverly Unitarian Church received anonymous threats for posting the words “Black Lives Matter” as an electronic message on its outdoor sign. “That incident is what brought us together for this movement,” said the Rev. Dennis Langdon, pastor of nearby Morgan Park Methodist Church.
Though Langdon and other presenters referred to police shootings protested by the Black Lives Matter movement, their focus was more on quelling overall gun violence and murder among Chicago residents.
Langdon urged attendees to encourage their contacts, friends and family members to sign an online petition on the website www.thoushaltnotmurder.com and to view The Chicago Tribune’s online crime map, which tracks Chicago homicides and shootings. In addition to monthly totals, the website lists names of homicide victims and links to related news stories.
Kelly Harris, an assistant professor and coordinator of African American Studies at Chicago State University, offered a history lesson with backstories about lesser known players in the civil rights movement who organized in church basements.
“My church has a long history of community involvement,” said Shirley Butler, a member of Morgan Park United Methodist. “I came to support the process of making us a beloved church in the community.”
“I think it’s good that we’re doing this and that we should all be pulling together,” said Rosemary Sheils, a parishioner at St. Barnabas. “I’m tired of watching CNN and always seeing Chicago in the news.”
“I came here to try and understand why we are killing each other, what’s going on,” said Cielo Medina, an Oak Forest resident and member of the Chicago Archdiocese Vicariate V Youth Ministry.
Others attendees with similar views included Sheila Murphy, a retired judge, and Bill Langle, a Morgan Park resident and Chicago Police officer. .
“A lot of movements that change the face of American culture begin in church basements,” said Jim White, a chaplain at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park.
The next meeting of the Thou Shalt Not Murder coalition is scheduled 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 17 at St. Barnabas Church, 10134 S. Longwood Dr. For more information, visit www.thoushaltnotmurder.com.
Susan DeGrane is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.
Editor’s note: DeGrane is a member of Beverly Unitarian Church.