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Praying To
Curb Crime

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That old expression, ‘Will it play in Peoria?’ is a reflection of the city’s image as good old-fashioned, heartland America. But an increase in violent crime is affecting the way residents see their own city. The Peoria faithful are fighting back, and the power of prayer is their weapon. Reed Galin reports.     

 
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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Peoria, Illinois)

Peoria has symptoms of an ailment many cities share.

Officer Brock Lavin: “It just seems to be getting worse.”

The mayor suggested a new anti-crime offensive.

Mayor Jim Ardis: “Not just through the traditional law enforcement but also encouraging and soliciting the support of the faith based community.”

And, churches organized 40 straight days of prayer.

Every night at First United Methodist church, people from diverse neighborhoods pray hand in hand for peace on the streets.

Every night, a different tone; sometimes conservative, sometimes highly-charged.

The Rev. Timothy Bias, First United Methodist Church: “The context for me is there was an economic study that showed that Peoria was one of the most segregated cities in America. That’s educationally, economically, politically, as well as racially. When we have predominantly all white congregations coming together to pray with predominantly all black congregations, we’re making a difference in this city.”

Averaging 150 people at each gathering, there are prayers for city leaders, educators, kids in tough neighborhoods.

Woman praying: “Lord God that are following gangs because maybe they don’t have something in their homes to follow...”

Jacque Buurman, First United Methodist Church: “It’s not that we’re going to pray for 40 days and zap, there’s not going to crime in the city. What’s happening is each night as we pray more and more, more hearts are moved and more people can make a difference.”

Gigi Gibson, City On The Hill Church of Christ, “It’s opening up a dialogue with people of other faith, other denominations. People have decided, that nothing is working, let’s try God.”

Out on the street…

Officer Brock Lavin: “Drugs, guns, basically, any contraband we can find.”

...busy officers do not discount the prayer initiative.

Officer Brock Lavin: “We’ll take all the help we can get.”

TAG:

There’s actually been less violent crime in Peoria since the prayer initiative began with the new year. Is that because prayers are working or because it’s been very cold this January? It’s obviously too soon to try and analyze results. Participants say this is a long-term approach to changing people’s hearts, before their lives and the city can be changed.

For more information about 40 days of prayer, contact First United Methodist Church of Peoria at 309-673-3641 or visit their Web site at www.fumcpeoria.org.

Also, see: Peoria gathers for 40 days of prayer against crime