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“Thou Shalt Not Kill”

“Thou Shalt Not Kill”The 10 Commandments have been drilled into me since I was young. Whether it was through Vacation Bible School, religious education, retreats, or whatever other church related education, these 10 "ways of being a good follower of God" have been part of my life since I can remember. Unfortunately, in pretty much all communities around the world, the 5th commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," seems to have been forgotten.

Here in New Orleans, our visionary Archbishop Gregory Aymond has asked all parishes, schools, diocesan offices, etc. to pray "Our Family Prayer" as we fight the "New Battle of New Orleans" against murder, violence, and racism. Violence has been out of control in New Orleans for some time, and "One murder is too many," as Archbishop Aymond says. Our police resources don't match up the violence that continues to plague our neighborhoods. The lack of respect for life can be seen in all levels of society from the elected officials to those committing violent crimes in the streets.

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The latest effort in the Archdiocese of New Orleans is to put up banners and send out 5,000 yard signs that say, "Thou Shalt Not Kill - God" According to Archbishop Aymond, the purpose of these signs is to, "increase awareness that we are all in this together and to add a spiritual tone to this battleā€¦Some people who are disposed to violence and murder might see these signs and think twice. If we have thousands of these signs all over the archdiocese, perhaps someone will have a second thought." In addition to the prayer and yard signs, the archdiocese has also launched the Isaiah 43 program to help with Parenting Skills and to provide youth from all backgrounds with positive mentors from their communities.

Another program that is taking place is the City of New Orleans's "Flip the Script/NOLA For Life" program. This program looks at changing the messages that black males see written about themselves in newspapers and "flipping the script" to a more positive message. Billboards have been put up all around the city with the help of Director/Producer Spike Lee.

The main purpose of these, and other programs to combat violence, is to remind us that murder is not just a problem that affects a specific demographic. Violence in any community throughout our country affects everyone. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., "Injustice anywhere, affects justice everywhere." Such is the case when it comes to violence. Most people have a disrespect for life because their lives have been disrespected. This does not justify killing/violence, but can help us understand ways to address the issue. Let me be clear this is not just a problem that affects New Orleans or inner cities. Looking at the news we see that violence is taking place all over the world and in all areas of our country.

In my own personal life, I have lost too many family, friends, church members, and even youth to violence. It never gets easier. The pain is like a wound being reopened every time I receive a call saying someone was killed. The sad thing is that this type of situation happens too often in communities throughout our country.

So what does our faith teach us? In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI states, "The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that 'a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized." We are also taught through the USCCB that, "As a gift from God, every human life is sacred from conception to death." So no form of human life is "expendable" since we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

We, as Catholics, are blessed with our rich history and tradition. Through our faith, we are drawn closer to the love of a Savior that died for our sins. We are truly blessed. God valued life so much that He came to make our lives right with Him. We are called to do the same for all forms of life from "the womb to the tomb." The programs that are offered through our church parishes and other institutions like Catholic Charities do so many great things with very little attention but we are always called to do more to spread the Gospel. Everything we do as people of faith is to help us realize who we are, but more importantly Whose we are. When we realize that we are children of the most High God, we think about ourselves differently and we treat others differently. This is why it is so important for us to reach out to all of our brothers and sisters and let them hear the "Good News" by any means necessary - even if it is a sign in our yard.

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