Campaign against New Orleans violence recalls 1815 prayers

Thou Shalt Not Kill Yard Sign Credit Archdiocese of New Orleans CNA US Catholic News 10 15 12 Thou Shalt Not Kill yard sign being distributed in the archdiocese. | Archdiocese of New Orleans.

"Thou shalt not kill" is the message on yard signs being distributed to parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans this week.

"I want area Catholics and non-Catholics who wish to join us to be able to proudly display the signs and in doing so, tell their neighbors, we are a people of peace, we do not accept or want violence in our neighborhoods," Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said in an Oct. 15th press release.

They are there "to serve as a reminder to the community that we must respect life and one another."

Parishioners will be able to pick up the yard signs at their parishes to display in their yards. Five thousand signs have been made and depending on demand, more may be distributed at a later date.

The initiative is part of the "New Battle of New Orleans," meant to help with the problem of violence, murder and racism affecting the New Orleans area.

The 'new battle' was launched in 2011 on Ash Wednesday by Archbishop Aymond as a prayerful effort to end the violence in the city.

It echoes the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, when Ursuline nuns in the city prayed to Our Lady of Prompt Succor to intercede that the city would be saved from approaching British troops. The city was spared from the battle and devotion to Our Lady has been strong there ever since.

Archbishop Aymond has compared the murder and racism in the city to the original battle, and considered prayer to again be the appropriate response.

The archdiocese is also working to strengthen family life as a way to combat violence. Mentoring programs have been started to help provide parenting skills and to help young people in high risk neighborhoods. The decision was also made to give archdiocesan employees extended vacation time at Christmas, so employees can concentrate on "who is most important in our lives."

In addition to the yard signs, three large banners carrying the same message will be displayed on archdiocesan property. One will be displayed at St. Louis Cathedral.

New Orleans has among the highest rates of violent crime in the United States. In 2010, the city had 49 homicides per 100,000 residents. The 2009 rate was more than 4 times that of similar-sized cities.

The murders are highly concentrated in impoverished neighborhoods, and both victims and perpetrators are characteristically young, African-American males.

A 2011 Bureau of Justice Assistance report noted that most murders in the city are "escalations of  arguments and disputes," rather than being gang- or drug-related.

"I want these signs to serve as a reminder to people that violence and murder are not the answers to a problem," Archbishop Aymond said.

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