The statistics are sobering at best and downright terrifying at worst. Over 40,000 Americans are killed each year by gun violence. For every fatality there are three nonfatal shootings. Politicians almost literally trip over themselves as they rush to introduce tougher and tougher crime legislation.
Columnist William Raspberry of The Washington Post is not convinced that you can coerce people into decent behavior. He writes:
“We keep imagining that the problem is that young people aren’t frightened enough, so we keep toughening criminal sanctions to the point where our national incarceration rate is the highest in the Western world. The real problem is that our young people aren’t hopeful enough.”
I spent about six years working with hopeless young people in Columbus, Georgia. I discovered that the lack of learning did not correlate with the rules and enforcement. Students did not do well in school because the vast majority of them were filled with a spirit of hopelessness.
I have been to Africa University and I have seen HOPE in the eyes of the young men and women that study there. Hope for themselves, for their families, for their nations from which they come. Many of them have walked as far as 200 miles or more to attend this beacon of hope. I have visited the dormitories where they volunteered to give up space so one more student could lodge with them. There is often not enough space for the students who flock there only to discover that their hope is not in vain. The opportunity to attend a university is an opportunity to not only lift a person, but an opportunity to lift a family, an opportunity to lift a community, an opportunity to lift a nation and ultimately an opportunity to lift the world.
I am not asking you to give just money; I am asking you to become a pipeline of HOPE. Join me in this campaign of HOPE, The Mississippi-Africa University Partnership.
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
Resident Bishop of the Mississippi Episcopal Area