Faith-Based Organizations in San Franciso discuss Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice, and Prepare for UN crime Congress in Kyoto, Japan
November 12, 2019,San Francisco, United States
The Spirituality and Justice Initiative of the Coalition of Faith-Based Organizations organized two side-meetings to the annual conference of the American Society of Criminology
Building on the momentum of previous meetings held in Vienna, Austria, the coalition hosted a working group meeting at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis Hotel on November 12, 2019, and an interfaith program at the historic Grace Cathedral the following day.
Speakers and Commentators emphasized the importance of developing partnerships between faith-based organizations (FBOs) and UN agencies, as well as with national and local governments. They discussed the relevance to criminal justice and crime prevention of faith-based agents and institutions, as well as the core religious values, principles and best practices common to many religious traditions.
Working Group: Spirituality and Justice: Faith-Based Organizations, Criminal Justice and Crime Prevention (San Francisco Marriott Marquis)
In his position as Co-Chair of the Coalition of Faith-Based Organizations, Dr. Thomas Walsh, who is also the Chair of UPF International, moderated the gathering and set the tone in seeking a new unity between FBOs and secular bodies involved in finding solutions to the many issues tearing at our community and nation, including what the Pope recently called “environmental crimes.” Dr. Walsh emphasized the need to find and use a common language to bridge the distance and even distrust between FBOs and governmental bodies. He highlighted the need to increase public awareness of UN programs and other governmental programs that are not well publicized. Also mentioned was the need for an interfaith council within the UN where diverse faiths would have a voice and share their concerns and solutions.
Dr. Jay S. Albanese, a Criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that most of the problems confronting society are man-made, “made by individuals making bad decisions. Too many of our leaders make bad decisions for their own gain, their own political survival, or simply self-seeking behavior for personal advantage.” He emphasized the need for education in ethics as a path to raising the level of our leaders’ character and making them accountable for their own bad behavior—in addition to raising the ethical expectations and decisions of all people in their personal and professional lives.
Stephanie L. Mann, a Crime and Violence Prevention Trainer and Consultant for 40 years, is the author of the book Empowerment Parenting: How to Raise Resilient Children Who Become Happy, Self-Reliant Adults. She described her own story of being abandoned by her mother and her boyfriend in Mexico City at age 15. She was abandoned in a country where she did not speak the language, didn’t know anyone, and did not know where to go or what to do. As she tells it, she at least had exposure to faith in God from an America of the 1950s that did not attempt to hide that important part of life. Because of that early exposure to God, she found a way to survive. Ms. Mann called for teaching spiritual values in the home, at school and in the public square. “Without spiritual values,” she said, “our children become vulnerable and even dependent upon those who do not have their best interests in mind.”
Dr. Irvin Waller, Professor Emeritus at the University of Ottawa, stated that FBOs have a key role to play in ending violent crime. He noted that the United States, the richest country on earth, has the highest proportion of incarcerated persons, exceptionally high expenditures on policing but still very high rates of homicide and violent crimes in many of its most important cities. He gave disturbing rates worldwide for victims of murders and rapes. “Punishment is not the answer, but prevention is. The action needed is the loud and public encouragement from civil society and FBOs.” The solution begins with connecting early with youth, which he outlines in his book Science and Secrets of Ending Violent Crime.
Ven. Bhante Chao Chu, the President of the Los Angeles Buddhist Union, noted that human beings are the focal point and that, in order to create a good society, they must live by ethical values that respect and value all life. “We are interdependent in so many ways,” he said, “and it is an illusion that we are simply independent. We have created our bad situation and must begin by taking much better care of our youth by giving ethical training and practically by creating programs.” He called for an approach that embraces cooperation and partnership.
Imam Mohammad Ismail, a Muslim chaplain at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, said that FBOs are very important in solving society’s problems but “must do a better job in expressing their values.” Religious leadership training sessions would be an important means of protecting youth, especially in dealing with hate speech and hate crimes.
Dr. Michael Jenkins, the President of UPF International, emphasized partnering with the police and “encouraging them to interact with religious communities, inviting them to visit places of worship. From this cooperation and unity comes a great power for goodness. Police should not interact with a community only when there are problems. They are an integral part of the community.” Only through strong families and healthy marriages can society hope to have peace, he said.
Rev. Dr. Luonne Rouse, the National Co-Chair of American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), an organization that is affiliated with UPF, spoke about the need to teach and practice good social and sexual ethics. Dr. Rouse, a licensed marriage and family therapist, pointed out the need to study each city, “because the situation in each city is unique” and shouldn’t be generalized, but most importantly, he said, “we must get to the root of the problems.”
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, the Imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County in the state of California, posed three questions: What is Islam’s view of crime? Where does crime come from? What is the role of the faith community in solving crime? “We must value the mind, life itself and property,” he said. “No one is born a criminal; everyone is born with a pure nature; and it is the responsibility of parents, schools, government, and all the social forms that influence to guide the youth toward goodness.” Dr. Siddiqi said everyone needs to work together, care for each other, tolerate each other and respect one another.