In the late '80's, the Rev. Eugene Rivers and a group of ministers
in Boston knew firsthand what it meant to live in a war zone, with
children as the embattled soldiers. So they hit the streets to talk
to the people who had the best insight into babies gone wrong.
These ministers asked drug dealers, "Why are we having the drive-by
shootings, the escalating street violence, the increased
And the answer that one of the drug dealers, now deceased, gave
them was simple but profound. He said, "The reason this is
happening is when these kids get up in the morning and go to
school, I'm there; you're not. They come home from school, I'm
there; you're not. When they need a pair of sneakers, I'm there;
you're not. And it's as simple as that."
Rivers' coalition of 37 churches gets people-especially men-in
relationship with these kids as positive role models. In December
of 1996, Boston had gone 17 months without a youth homicide. And
the homicide rate among 10 to 24-year-olds there is down 70 percent
from last year. There are likely a number of factors contributing
to this radical decrease in juvenile crime, but the eyes of faith
see God at work through this coalition.
Professor DiIulio is convinced that it's God's people who can most
help abandoned and hurting children. "The churches come in for a
very simple reason...There are kids who don't have any adults in
their lives to supervise them. We need to get adults in the lives
of these at-risk kids. And in these places, the only real centers
of activity and outreach are the churches."
"The churches are the single most powerful potential engine of
rescuing-and in many cases resurrecting-the well-being of America's
most at-risk children," DiIulio asserts. "The churches and all the
denominations are capable of doing a lot more than they're
According to DiIulio, we have to focus on the black youth crime
problem in the inner cities. "There are 60,000 to 65,000 churches
that have predominately black congregations in this country-many
concentrated in urban areas," explains DiIulio. "And these churches
are doing a tremendous number of things right now. There are
enormous numbers of people who want to get involved.
"The difficulty often is that you have a minister in a
neighborhood where there are problems in the community and he or
she doesn't know where to turn. The church would like to build an
annex for kids to come after school and have a place to learn,
read, or do Bible study, but they don't know where to go to find a
grant or get hooked up with a private foundation that might help.
They don't know how to mobilize by pooling human and financial
resources with other churches.
"I think the answer for those churches is a national mobilization
of black churches that will create a network of funding, technical
assistance, and information sharing. We've seen that develop in
Boston through the work of Rev. Rivers at Azusa Christian Community
and the other coalition members who have come together around a
10-point plan of youth community outreach.
"Rivers talks about mobilizing a thousand black churches, 40 in
each of 25 big cities in the worst neighborhoods, or alternatively
50 in 20, but we're a long, long way from that. Our initial goal is
to shore up and further strengthen both the financial and the
volunteer base in Boston and to take a version of what has happened
in Boston and help bring people and resources to Philadelphia to
help what's already going on there...We have a fighting chance of
making this happen. We don't have any illusions of grandeur that
this is going to solve the problem, but there are lots of candles
that can be lit."™
If you would like to know more about how to become part of the Ten
Point Coalition, contact Virginia Ward at (617) 524-4331.