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Violence in the inner-city neighborhoods of Boston has significantly escalated in the last three years, leaving a trail of mourning families, frightened residents and angry youths.
Dissecting the causes of that senseless violence is beyond the scope of this editorial, but issues like poverty, dysfunctional family environments, and racial and cultural barriers are elements that play a significant role in the dynamics of violence.
Inner-city youths are often raised in environments that are less than conducive to successful personal development, finding themselves in their teen-age years with no hope for the future. Those teens easily become the prey of street gangs, which provide them with a strong sense of security and belonging, at the price of blind loyalty to the group leaders. Gang violence, often fed with a never-ending circle of retaliation, is a core activity of these groups that develop their identity by confronting other gangs.
Catholic Charities has understood the need to provide an alternative to the streets and, in collaboration with parishes in Dorchester and Roxbury, has established the Boston Catholic Youth Connection (BCYC), a program aimed at breaking down the barriers that contribute to a culture in which violence and gangs can thrive. The group gathers with youth once a month to pray for peace. It also helps parishes to reach the at-risk teens in their areas.
Societal action to control violence must be multifaceted. There is no single solution. But creating healthy environments where disaffected youths may find solace, positive role models and faith is a key grassroots effort sorely needed. The pastors of the inner-city parishes and Catholic Charities deserve recognitions for their efforts to curb violence in the city and to give hope to the inner-city kids.