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logo smallInstitute for Peace and Justice


 Electronic Newsletter!

March 2020


Gun Violence

(note: many weblinks are included in this issue. If clicking on them does not take you to the website, please copy/paste into your web browser.)

The issue of gun violence is among the most hotly debated issues in the United States today. All Americans agree that our citizens and especially our children should be safe but could not disagree more on what to do about it. It is often said during tragedy that “this is not the time to politicize,” an argument people use to justify complacency.ipj 33If not now, then when? If not us, then whom?

That does seem to be the question, doesn’t it? How long? How many children must be robbed of a future before we understand it is our duty to protect their future, which is indeed our own future? A recent study performed by the University of Pennsylvania examined almost 200 participants and found that nearly half screened positive for likely PTSD even several years after they were shot. There were also higher rates of unemployment and drug or alcohol abuse than before they were injured. Clearly the effects and damage done by gun violence far exceeds the physical harm done.

ipj 44Talking to kids about gun violence is extremely difficult, yet also extremely necessary. There are many resources online or you can ask the guidance counselor at your child’s school for programs or tools to help you speak with your children. Parents need to have honest conversations with their kids that are age appropriate.

• Do you play video games that use and glorify violence? Are there games you enjoy that don’t
have violence in them?
     • According to the American Psychological Association (APA) more than 90% of U.S. children play some kind of video game.
     • It is estimated that more than 85% of games on the market contain some form of violence.
     • You can read the 2015 APA resolution on violent video games here:
• Have you ever experienced bullying? How did you react?

Kids in Their Own Words After Sandy Hook
While we all were children once upon a time, for some of us that might have been a while ago. These two TV news segments highlight young children’s feelings and understandings about gun violence:

In her chart-topping hit song, The Greatest Love of All Whitney Houston writes, “I believe the children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” While this song was performed in 1985 the sentiment is certainly still valid today. As parents we need to be involved in our children’s education and safety. We need more productive conversations with our children. Children need to know that they can safely come to us with questions about the world they live in. Here are some alternatives to violence that you can share with your children. (Below is a worksheet from VIOLENCE PREVENTION CURRICULUM by Deborah Prothrow-Stith, originally published in 1987. Now available through Googlebooks.


Fight and flight are always choices in a conflict. We’ve talked about how fighting can be dangerous under the best of circumstances; it is even more so when alcohol, drugs, and weapons are involved. And to many people, flight feels like admitting defeat and losing face. But there is another choice.

Throw a curve. Do the unexpected. Your opponent probably expects you to be defensive and hostile (ready to fight), or else frightened (ready to flee). Instead, throw a curve and be confident, friendly, and ready to joke.

 Martial arts and self-defense experts recommend these steps in looking for nonviolent ways to handle a fight situation:

1. STAY ON CENTER. Stay in control. Don’t let your fear, anger, or defensiveness throw you off balance, and
don’t let someone else force you into fighting. Breathe deeply, move slowly, and stay calm.

2. KEEP IT COOL. Keep your voice low and calm. Calling someone names, shouting, or swearing will make the other person defensive. Keep the situation from escalating.

 3. STAND IN THE OTHER PERSON’S SHOES. It’s easier to figure out the best way to handle a situation if you can relate to the other person. Try to understand what he or she wants, thinks, and feels. It will put you in a better position to work things out and stand up for yourself.

4. GIVE ‘EM A WAY OUT. Usually the other person is as interested in saving face as you are. Don’t back the
person into a corner where he or she will have to fight. Provide a graceful way out.
5. KEEP IT LIGHT. The less serious a situation, the less likelihood of a fight. Make a joke — but not at the other person’s expense — or be the joker, or just point out that it isn’t worth fighting about.
6. APOLOGIZE/EXCUSE. Saying “sorry” or “excuse me” doesn’t have to mean you’re wrong and the other person’s right. It can be a simple way to diffuse an argument or fight.

And remember: Prevention is the best curve of all!

By role playing and thinking about real life situation we are able to help children walk through experiences that they may have to deal with on a daily basis. For many of us the idea of “Fight or Flight” is the only two possible solutions to the problems we face but that does not have to be the case. Here we will look at some examples of situations that can be typical in life in order to work through different ways of handling the problem.

We believe there are alternative actions that can be taken during times of conflict instead of the use of any form of violence. Here are several child-friendly situations that will allow you to explore nonviolent responses to everyday challenges that children face.

 1. Cindy is being made fun of because she is the only African American in her class. How should someone help Cindy without using violence?
2. Timmy stutters when he speaks, and Madelyn is making fun of him. How can Timmy let Madelyn know it bothers him without resorting to violence?
3. Johnny sees Jimmy behind the school showing his friends a gun he brought from home.
What should Johnny do?

“Change” by Charlie Puth (feat. James Taylor)

ipj 1On Puth’s Twitter, he said this song is “dedicated to all of the Parkland students, any lives lost to senseless gun violence, and the world.” He also told Women’s Wear Daily, “It wasn't written for [March for Our Lives] specifically. I wrote it a year prior. I don't really know why I wrote it, but now I know why. It just happened to catch up a year late,"

Questions to consider:
1. As you listen to this song, what phrases or situations stick out for you?
2. If you could write another verse to the song based on your community’s situation, what might it include?

“Preach” by John Legend.

ipj 2      o

In this performance John Legend addresses the issue of violence perpetrated by figures of authority in our society. If we want to see the injustice in the world improve, we need to do more than simply preach. We need to act and be a part of the positive change.

Questions to Consider:
1. If you were “preaching” to your community about violence, what would be the number one issue you would raise? As the newsletter opened up, “If not us, then whom?”
2. Do you ever feel overwhelmed and helpless by the onslaught of violent news and social media? How do you respond?

 If we want to make lasting changes for the betterment of our children and the future, we need to make sure that we sow into as many areas as possible where we can make a difference. Many organizations have lobbyists working with local and national politicians to enact changes in our country’s laws. These groups need volunteers, as well as donations, to continue to move forward.

One such group is the Children’s Defense Fund. Marylee Allen, the Director of Policy states that the Children’s Defense Fund champions policies and programs to improve the odds for America’s children.

This particular organization also gathers data for reports and analysis. It is an excellent resource for trends in national violence and child welfare that can lead to discussion questions in your home or classroom.

Another national organization, Moms Demand Action, founded by Shannon Watts grew out of a Facebook page that was started the day after the Sandy Hook shootings.

Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. We pass stronger gun laws and work to close the loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our families.

We also work in our own communities and with business leaders to encourage a culture of responsible gun ownership. We know that gun violence is preventable, and we’re committed to doing what it takes to keep families safe.
There is a chapter of Mom’s Demand Action in every state. To learn more about how you can be a part of their mission you can read about them on their website at

Brady: United Against Gun Violence
White House Press Secretary Jim Brady survived a gunshot wound to the head during the 1981 failed Presidential assassination attempt. Following the incident Mr. Brady and his wife Sarah became very active in working to provide safe parameters on gun ownership and use. The organization the National Council to Control Handguns was founded in 1974 and later evolved into Handgun Control Inc. which with its sister organization, Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, was instrumental in pushing for background checks when purchasing handguns from federal firearm dealers. On November 30, 1993 The Brady Bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton requiring background checks on all handguns purchased from federally licensed firearms dealers. The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence has evolved into the non-profit organization called Brady. As an organization they are committed to reducing gun violence by 25% by 2025. Their web site is an excellent resource for statistics about gun violence and ways that you can be a part of the national solution.

If you would like your Congressperson to support issues that you feel are important for the future of our country you can reach out to them so they know your opinion. As of October 24, 2019 you can reach current Missouri Senators at:

Roy Blunt 202.224.5721
Josh Hawley 202.224.6154

 If you do not know your Congressperson you can find out at

Your Local Church

Check with the Pastor at your local church.

 The local church is often an excellent source of aid during times of community challenge or tragedy. There are support and outreach groups to help individuals process acts of violence and grief. These outreach and support groups can be a wonderful resource if you are in need and also a great way for you to get involved if you are interested in helping others.

Your local congregation can also be a source of proactive advocacy for issue regarding social justice. If your church does not currently have a committee to help work toward social justice issues perhaps you could talk to your Pastor about creating one.


Better Family Life is another community development organization that provides many resources to the St. Louis community. It was founded to tackle social and economic problems in the community from a holistic approach. Better Family Life’s five core pillars of development are: Community Outreach, Cultural Arts, Housing and Asset Development, Workplace Development, and Youth, Family and Clinical Services.

Better Family Life builds strong families and vibrant communities by providing hope, comprehensive services, and meaningful opportunities.

Through their main website there are links to the various programs that have been initiated by Better Family Life to meet the challenging and changing needs of the community.


The National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1.800.273.8255

NBC news in September of 2018 reported that over 20,000 Americans a year commit suicide using a firearm. While a study at Harvard University determined that 85% of suicide attempts using a firearm end in death. This is compared with drug overdose, the most widely used method in suicide attempts, which is fatal in less than 3% of the cases. is also a site where you can find resources for yourself or someone you know to get the help they need.

On December 13th 2019 it was announced that the FCC approved a three digit number (988) to more easily link those who need help to a suicide prevention call center, similar to the national 911 emergency number. Now that the FCC approved the number it can go before the general public to determine if it is a proposal that meets the needs of the people.

Cure Violence
ipj 5There are many excellent resources in the United States regardless of your location. The organization Cure Violence even operates on a global scale. There are groups in over 25 cities in the United States as well as many locations in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and more.

In October of 2019 the city council of Saint Louis approved a $5 million-dollar violence prevention initiative by partnering with the organization Cure Violence. This bill was sponsored by Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, whose family has personally experienced traumatic gun violence. The city of Saint Louis is hoping to begin the program in the spring of 2020. Currently the city is engaged in seeking a local organization to run the daily operation of the program.

 The program trains neighborhood “interrupters”. These are community-based individuals that go to the scenes of violence and shootings to deescalate the emotions and tension of the community resulting in reduced rates of retaliatory violence. These “interrupters” are individuals from the neighborhoods. They have street credibility to speak into the lives and struggles faced as they are invested in the well-being of the community. Trained in counseling and mediation techniques they hope to bring cooler heads and reason into often tense street clashes. It is critical that we continue to do something. In Saint Louis there have been 172 homicides as of November 18, which is up from 163 over the same period last year.
ipj 6
Safe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people under the age of 18 (up to 21 years of age in some communities) in need of immediate help and safety.

You can learn more about the Safe Place program, who is running them and where the nearest
“Safe Place” is at through their website: 


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If you have any technology questions please email [email protected]


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logo smallInstitute for Peace and Justice


 Electronic Newsletter!

 March 2019



(note: many weblinks are included in this issue. If clicking on them does not take you to the website, please copy/paste into your web browser.)



A real estate agent was showing a house available for rent in a working-class suburb. As he pulled up to the property, he noticed that across the street there was a Confederate flag prominently displayed in a neighbor’s front yard. Then, as he was leaving the property, he saw that the neighbor’s garage door had been opened, showing a lot of white supremacy paraphernalia. The agent talked to the police about it, feeling it was possibly a public nuisance or a public safety issue. The police response was that it was protected under the First Amendment. If this were in your neighborhood, your school’s or your church’s neighborhood, what would you do?

Let’s back up and look at the issue with a little more background. First of all,--why are there confederate monuments, flags, etc. around in 2018? Some say it is simply because they are history. Others say their purpose is as a memorial to those on the Confederate side who died in the war. Others say their purpose is to boldly maintain white supremacy.

Secondly, how wide-spread is the movement to take down these monuments? In April and May 2017, the New Orleans City Council voted to remove four Confederate monuments from their city. This decision came on the heels of other cities such as Austin, TX and Louisville, KY, who also voted to remove their statues; additional cities are also considering removing them. St. Louis took down a memorial that had stood in Forest Park in the summer of 2017. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu championed the effort to take down the four Confederate monuments, stating, “It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America; they fought against it. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.”

The latest national push for the removal of Confederate monuments and names began in 2015 after Dylann Roof, who idolized the Confederate flag, killed nine African-American worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. That push was intensified after the demonstrations and violence in Charlottesville, VA in the summer of 2017. Racial justice activists have been working for decades on the removal of Confederate monuments and other related symbols. Taking down these monuments has come with significant opposition including pushback, threats against work crews and in some cases, protests and demonstrations.




• Meaning of a statue

            Ask the children—when you see a statue of a person, what does that mean to you? Since a statue was put up, does that mean that the person is someone you should admire? Someone you should try to imitate? Who would you erect a statue for? Are there people that you think should not have statues?

• Story/children’s book

            Use a book like Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine, with Kadir Nelson as illustrator.image003.jpg

A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist. Henry "Box" Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday, his first day of freedom.

• Activity about erecting a statue to Harriet Tubman

image004.jpgHave the children pretend that they are members of a city council, and they have received a request from a citizen to erect a statue of Harriet Tubman in a prominent place in the city. Someone has offered to pay for the statue, so the discussion is around whether or not the people of the city would want a statue of Harriet Tubman—why or why not. (Then they should vote at the end of their discussion.)



      • There are a number of YouTube videos about the Confederate monument controversy. One example is 

View the video and discuss its contents with the class.

      • Use the “What Would You Do” scenario above? (Confederate flag in the front yard) and ask the class what they would do in this situation.

• Listen to music that deals with slavery, racism, building bridges between each other, etc. Have a discussion about the song/s. A class of teen-agers might want to create their own song. Some suggested songs:


• ELLA’S SONG by Sweet Honey ‘n the Rock

        • NO MORE AUCTION BLOCK FOR ME by Odetta or Paul Robeson.                                                

Below is a link to an interesting article about the song:

               Check out the list of songs from BLACK ENTERPRISE. A number of them could be good discussion starters.

To get you started, here are a couple questions based on two of the songs:

“Black Rage” by Lauryn Hill (contains some sensitive language)image005.jpg

  1. What surprised or resonated with you after hearing this song?
  2. What organizations in your community are currently working to dismantle the racism and supremacist ideals that lead to these actions against black people? How can you assist in their efforts?

“The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylanimage006.jpg

  1. Who does Dylan call upon to make changes in the world? How should they change?
  2. If you could write another verse to the song that further reflects our reality in 2019, what would it discuss?


image007.jpgAnother idea: listen to the song, “Glory” by John Legend and Common. It may be helpful to have the lyrics in front of you as you listen. After this, watch Legend and Common’s Oscar acceptance speech for the song.

Questions to consider:

  1. Common talks about the symbolism of the bridge Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on in the march between Selma and Montgomery. What do you believe this and other landmarks of the Civil Rights movement symbolize today?
  2. John Legend says “the struggle for justice is right now.” Talk about places where you see injustice actively playing out in your community, and what you might do to change that.



There are numerous lesson plans on (Teaching Tolerance) on the topic of slavery. Of particular note: This lesson for high schoolers discusses how slavery and racism adapted after Emancipation. This activity for middle schoolers uses art to understand the emotions surrounding slavery. This lesson that can be used for middle and high school highlights another important black woman who made significant contributions during the Civil War.

Thinking of doing a slavery simulation in your classroom? Please don’t. This is why slavery simulations are a bad idea.

Extra TV Show Idea: If you have a Hulu subscription, you can stream the TV show “Underground”, a show based on the events of the Underground Railroad.


•Book about the Freedom quilt –SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT by Deborah Hopkinson, 1993. Perhaps use Sweet Honey in the Rock’s tape ALL FOR FREEDOM as a vehicle for discussion about what freedom means to the students.image008.jpg

• Use pieces of fabric to do art projects. Perhaps the children could attempt to stitch or color in directions to someplace.

• Harriet Tubman story and then a question about how she would feel about a Confederate statue

Watch to see an animated retelling of Harriet’s story from Discovery Education.

Books addressing racism, slavery and the Underground Railroad:

image009.jpgSojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney

-Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People To Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

-Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine


      • Find quote from a news article for discussion

      • Check about statements about Confederate monuments


Good books for high school students:image010.jpg

Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper

Day of Tears by Julius Lester

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis


• Statements mentioned above

• Check about any current national advocacy around monuments

• Education about slavery and the Confederacy

• Movie with discussion for the parish/congregation


Here’s a great article to start the discussion.


  1. Do you think Confederate monuments should be removed? If so, what action can you take to remove monuments in your own community?
  2. Malcolm X once said, “You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you're making progress ... No matter how much respect, no matter how much recognition, whites show towards me, as far as I am concerned, as long as it is not shown to every one of our people in this country, it doesn't exist for me.” What thoughts or questions does this bring up for you?
  3. How, then, do we respond to Malcolm X in these times? What work lies ahead for us now?image011.jpg


Organize a panel or other discussion group to discuss appropriate action in your community, which educates people about the Confederacy and systemic oppression.

Research organizations in yours or neighboring communities that are engaged in these kinds of missions, and ask how you can help.


13th (Netflix documentary)            image014.png                                                         Free State of Jonesimage013.png                                                                                                                  BlackkKlansmanimage012.jpg     



  1. What thoughts or questions come up for you after watching this movie?
  2. What kinds of action might this movie encourage in your community?

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See you soon, IPJ

If you have any technology questions please email [email protected]


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logo smallInstitute for Peace and Justice


 Electronic Newsletter!

March 2018

We cannot be silent while our neighbors are under attack.  Let's talk about IMMIGRATION. 

(note: many weblinks are included in this issue. If clicking on them does not take you to the website, please copy/paste into your web browser.) 

cover photo

   The Immigrant story is multi-faceted.  There are many similarities between experiences people have, and of course many differences.  If one thing is certain in today's United States, it is that everything is uncertain, and therefore frightening. Especially frightening is the constant anxiety faced by families--children wondering if their parents will be there when they return from school; parents afraid to leave the house, afraid to go to work for fear that they will be taken without warning from their families. There is some similarity to the anguish faced by slave families in the U..S., never knowing if or when parents and children would be separated from each other.  Certainly the circumstances were vastly different but the pain of separation and loss is very similar. 
This issue of Peace Pieces contains ideas about growing in our knowledge about immigrants and immigration,as well as ideas about action possibilities.  Action is imperative if things are going to change.
The next issue of PEACE PIECES will focus on SLAVERY, JIM CROW AND THE NEW JIM CROW.
   The following Myths about immigration come from Teaching Tolerance: A program of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The myths are phrased to be shared in educational settings.  Imagine discussing these myths during religious learning hours.  For some, the myths will be eye-opening and an opportunity to shed old and inaccurate ideas.  For others, these myths and their explanations will help shape response for when folks come across inaccurate information in their personal and professional lives.  For religious educators, we are called to teach truth.  Debunking such harmful and erroneous myths does just that. 
Undocumented immigrants bring crime.
Ask students where they heard this. 
   Nationally, from 1990 to 2010, the violent crime rate declined almost 45 percent and the property crime rate fell 42 percent, even as the number of undocumented immigrants more than tripled.  According to the conservative Americas Majority Foundation, crime rates from 1999 to 2006 were lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates. During that period, the total crime rate fell 14 percent in the 19 top immigration states, compared to only 7 percent in the other 31.  Truth is, foreign-born people in America-whether they are naturalized citizens, permanent residents or undocumented-are incarcerated at a much lower rate than native-born Americans, according to the National Institute of Corrections.
Undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes but still get benefits.
   Ask students what are some ways Americans pay taxes, as in income tax and sales tax. Undocumented immigrants pay taxes every time they buy gas, clothes or new appliances.  They also contribute to property taxes-a main source of school funding-when they buy or rent a house, or rent an apartment.  The U.S. Social Security Administration estimated that in 2013 undocumented immigrants-and their employers-paid $13 billion in payroll taxes alone for benefits they will never get.  They can receive schooling and emergency medical care, but not welfare or food stamps.
The United States is being overrun by immigrants like never before.
   Ask students why they think this. As a percentage of the U.S. population, the historic high actually came in 1890, when the foreign-born constituted nearly 15 percent of the population. By 2012, about 13 percent of the population was foreign-born. At the start of the recession in 2008, the number of undocumented immigrants coming into the country actually dropped, and in more recent years, that number is stabilizing with little change. 
   Many people also accuse immigrants of having "anchor babies"-children who allow the whole family to stay. According to the U.S. Constitution, a child born on U.S. soil is automatically an American citizen. That is true. But immigration judges will not keep immigrant parents in the United States just because their children are U.S. citizens. In 2013, the federal government deported about 72, 410 foreign-born parents whose children had been born here. These children must wait until they are 21 before they can petition to allow their parents to join them in the United States. That process is long and difficult. In reality, there is no such thing as an "anchor baby."
Anyone who enters the country illegally is a criminal.
   Ask students whether someone who jaywalks or who doesn't feed a parking meter is a criminal.  Explain that only very serious misbehavior is generally considered "criminal" in our legal system.  Violations of less serious laws are usually "civil" matters and are tried in civil courts.  People accused of crimes are tried in criminal courts and can be imprisoned. Federal immigration law says that unlawful presence in the country is a civil offense and is, therefore, not a crime.  The punishment is deportation.  However, some states-like Arizona-have criminalized an immigrant's mere presence.
To view all Ten Myths About Immigration shared by Teaching Tolerance, please click here.
Religious Education with Adults and Older Youth
   The Sanctuary Movement among churches is once again gaining momentum as faith communities react to the recent changes in immigration policy and political climate.  This movement began in the American Southwest during the 1980's when churches and synagogues organized to open their doors and house individuals and families escaping the conditions of war that was present in Central America.
   The following video, shared by PBS, overviews the topic of Sanctuary in just 10 minutes. This short format lends itself to an Education Hour offering, leaving time for group discussion, and Bible study. Recommended scripture passages include: Hebrews 13:1-2, Ephesians 2:11-22, Matthew 2:13-15.(For a comprehensive list of Biblical references on immigration and refugees, please click here.
Click here to play the video.
 Religious Education with Children
Interfaith Testimony by Kelly Archer, Intern at the Institute for Peace and Justice. 
   "Once a month my children have a sacred play date. They look forward to seeing their friends and I look forward to talking with the other parents while our children play. In so many ways, it is just another Saturday with friends and games and snacks. And yet in its own way, it is entirely special. 
    One third of the children gathered are from our Christian church, one-third are from a neighboring Synagogue and one-third from an Islamic center. The program is called Sprouts of Peace, and its premise is simple and radical. Though there are interfaith experiences and opportunities for teenagers, there weren't similar programs for young children. Sprouts of Peace welcomes children in preschool through 4th grade. We parents are also split among Christians, Jews, and Muslims and our conversations over coffee are distinct and important in this age we live in. 
    As children of Abraham, the children gathered learn about the similarities among their faith traditions.  And as each house of worship takes turns hosting, the children also learn about what is unique about each of these world religions.  This has been so important to me as a parent because it supports the lessons we teach in our home. In our home we teach equality among all of God's people, regardless of their path, or lack thereof, to God. And as significant as that lesson is, it falls short when our children see a disconnect between our words and the realities of their world.  For what is equality, if there is absence?  In school and Sunday school and karate and swim lessons, the vast majority of the children look and worship in a similar fashion to us. Because of Sprouts of Peace, my children have real friendships, real relationships with people who worship differently than them. And I give thanks for that. 
   So much of the anti-immigration rhetoric is shaped by an attitude of religious intolerance, especially Islamophobia. And in that way, starting a program like Sprouts of Peace in your community sows the seeds for a better world yet to come. A world in which God's dream for justice and shalom can be found on Earth as it is in heaven". 
To learn more about Sprouts of Peace, pleaseclick here. 
Peace and Justice Committees
 box 1
  As people of faith, we are familiar with the call set forth in the 25th chapter of Matthew and parodied above.  Of course in Jesus' version of the teaching we are instructed to welcome the stranger in our midst.  And reminded, that as we do, we are indeed welcoming Christ himself.  This is why immigration and the refugee experience needs to be discussed in our churches and among our Peace and Justice Committees.  Today's climate of suspicion and hostility toward immigrants and refugees that saturates our current affairs is not merely a social or political issue.  It is very much a faith issue, and our work begins as we discern how we may partner with God to bring forth God's dream of justice and shalom on earth.   
Where to begin:
Stand in Solidarity
Churches and other institutions across the United States are bearing witness to the extravagant welcome of the Gospel by placing yard signs on their church lawns.  Click here to read about how these signs came to be.
 Join Community Efforts Already in Place
It is important to know what resources and coalitions are already in place and working in your community, especially organization led by immigrants and refugees.  Because this newsletter is distributed widely, we are unable to provide an accurate resource guide, however, we encourage you to build relationships with those groups already working toward widening the welcome for immigrants and their families.  If you happen to be in St. Louis area, the location of the Institute of Peace and Justice, we encourage you to connect with these local organizations:
Think Big!
   There is strength in numbers and power in organization.  How can we think beyond our church walls anddioceses and energize our conferences, denominations and dioceses into actions.  Recently the Episcopal Church filed a law suit in response to President Trumps executive order travel ban.
Click here  to read more. 
Parenting and Grandparenting at Home
   Picture books are a great way for parents to tackle complex topics like the refugee crisis or the immigrant experience with children.  The books in this list can help kids - and the adults reading to them - better understand, and empathize with, the immigrant experience.  For children who know first hand the experience of immigration or the refugee experience, these books can be life giving as they encourage children to identify and share their feelings.  Click here  for a list of multicultural children's books about immigration and positive attitudes towards all religions. 
Inspired but looking to do more? 
Why not consider donating a collection of the books suggested above to a local school or church school.  Better yet, volunteer to come and read the books to the children too.  Most schools and churches welcome community readers and you will likely find that the experience will touch and teach you even more that the children with whom you are working.
Additional Suggestions for Families:
Tell You Family's Story
Most of us do not trace our ancestral roots to the same geographical land in which we live today.  And yet our government's policies and attitudes towards immigration do not reflect this commonality.  Help the children in your life make the connections between the immigrants we seen on the news today and their family's unique story of coming to America.  Encourage school age children to interview their oldest living relatives and teens to explore the many web based genealogy programs available. 
Celebrate Multicultural, International  Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events
Lift up for yourselves and your children the lives of immigrants, past and present, for their unique journey and contributions to our society.  Enjoy the learning by surrounding it with a party or other enjoyable event.  Many communities have cultural events (dance, theater, art) that provide information as well as real insights into the culture, history, and life of different racial groups.  Holidays (e.g., Cinco de Mayo, Eid-Al-Adha) can also be times to learn more about the values of other people. 
Seek Out Racially Diverse Role Models/Professionals
Children's attitudes are affected by the people they relate to in a variety of capacities (doctors, dentists, teachers, ministers, counselors).  Make cultural diversity one of the criteria for choosing such professionals for yourself and your children.
 HiRes people globe illustration web

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logo smallInstitute for Peace and Justice


 Electronic Newsletter!

March 2017


BULLYING: An Issue for Children and Adults

(note: many weblinks are included in this issue. If clicking on them does not take you to the website, please copy/paste into your web browser.)

* Ellie's parents are worried about her. She has become reclusive, barely coming out of her room. One of her friends told the parents that it's because of what some kids are saying about her on Twitter.

* Luke's younger brother was beat up on the way home from school because a friend of his had betrayed a confidence of someone who was a friend of the kids who did the beating. Luke feels like he has to respond in kind.

* Damien was waiting on a street corner for a friend. A police car pulled up; the window rolled down and the officer said angrily, "What are you doing here. Get your hands out of your pockets right now."

* Fernando is in kindergarten.  He is smaller than most of his classmates. Two of his classmates consistently call him "tiny man," and push him up against the wall in the bathroom.

Sophia is in seventh grade.  Her math teacher has spoken to her several times about her inability to understand algebra concepts. Now she uses Sophia as an example of someone who will never be able to go on in math because she can't get these beginning ideas.

-All of these vignettes are examples of bullying of young people--different kinds of bullying with different consequences. 

-Adults are also victims of bullying.  

-The effects of bullying are wide-ranging-including the bully, the victim, the bystander, and the community itself.


Experts usually define bullying as having these components:

1. Aggressive Behavior -actions intended to harm someone else.  

2. Imbalance of Power -the perpetrator has more power than the                               person targeted.

 3. Repetition -the aggression happens over and over, or the target has a reasonable fear that it will happen again.   

Most of the time when we talk about bullying, we are talking about behavior among young people, but adults also are victims and perpetrators of bullying. There are similarities in the strategies for adults and for youth in dealing with bullying, but there are also some differences.  Some adult workplace bullying falls under the category of harassment or discrimination. No matter what kind of bullying it is, the effects are negative.           


                             Religious Ed with Adults and Older Youth

A. Story:

Akouvi was originally a refugee from Togo, who spent much of her childhood in a camp in Ghana before she came to the United States. She is now a college student and a citizen of the U.S. She is completely on her own in terms of finances, so she also works while she goes to school and currently is working nights at Wal Mart stocking merchandise. One of her co-workers asked her to help him with the shelves he was stocking because Akouvi had finished her section. She did help him but realized the man had done very little on his own and was now continuing to relax as she did the work. When she said something to the man, he told here that he had cleared it with the shift supervisor, and that the supervisor wanted Akouvi to do the extra work. Akouvi really needs this job and is aware that as an African, she is not viewed in the same way as the other workers. 

Read the story above and ask the class what they feel Akouvi should do.

B. Movie:   

"Cyberbully" is an ABC Family film about a teen-age girl's dealing with digital bullying. (available through Amazon)

Show and discuss with the class.


C. Fight/Flight Response:

  1.  Use Attachment #1 to stimulate discussion from the class about possible    responses to bullying behavior.

  2.  Attachment #2 talks about "Throwing A Curve."  Ask students for their own     examples.


D. Scriptural Reference:

The story of Joseph and his brothers is one  that  young people can relate to. It can be used as a jumping off point for discussion around bullying between siblings and close friends.

Religious Ed. With Younger Children

A. Where Do You Stand?

This activity enables students to explore their own opinions and understand how others feel about bullying. Set up two chairs with "Agree" and "Disagree" signs. Read out one statement at a time and ask the children to place themselves according to what they believe, stressing that there is not always a "right" answer. Pupils standing near each other can discuss their decisions and random students can be picked out to explain why they have chosen their particular location. Following this, children can change position if they have formed a new opinion.

Sample statements include:

    It's best to keep it a secret if you are bullied.

    If you see somebody in trouble you should try to stop the bullies.

    It's OK to call someone a name if you are only joking.

    It's better to tell a friend about bullying than to tell the teacher.

▪    If you ignore bullies they will go away.

*    Anyone can be a bully.



B. Flashbacks and Flash-Forwards

Using flashbacks or flash forwards creates a context - it shows what led up to a particular moment, how it might be resolved or how it might develop. A setting is given, such as a playground or classroom. Pupils are asked to think of still images related to bullying. The group stands in a circle and one by one participants step in and make a still image as part of a developing tableau. Nothing is pre-planned. When sufficient characters have been added, thought tracking can be used to establish a little more about the characters.                             ipj 7                                     

Explain that when you clap your hands, you would like the students to move silently in slow motion to where they think their character would have been a few moments before. Again they are thought-tracked. Now return them to the present moment and then flash forwards to show what might happen next. Using this technique you have created an episode with a beginning, middle and end and can develop it in any number of ways. This can lead onto discussion, role-play and writing. (also taken from


A. Work with a neighboring school

Check out neighboring schools to see if they have a program on bullying and if they could use help from adult volunteers.  It's important for children and youth to know that people active in the community are opposed to bullying behavior and are willing to be of help.



Putting prevention back in bullying prevention is the goal of the RFK Center's newly launched RFK Project SEATBELT - Safe Environments Achieved Through Bullying prevention, Engagement, Leadership and Teaching respect.

Check out the

and click on "bullying prevention" to take a quiz on bullying and for curriculum ideas.


C. Work on Conscious Affirmation in the Church community

 While there is more to bullying than low self-esteem, it is true that an environment of affirmation and cooperation can make bullying behavior all the more unacceptable.  Congregations can be intentional about recognizing the gifts of everyone in the congregation, even making that part of a Sunday liturgy, eg. Have all teachers stand for a special blessing and acknowledgement; Recognizing youth who are graduating (from pre-school through graduate school); providing an atmosphere where older youth are encouraged to help younger youth in religious ed., sports, games, etc.; acknowledging those who cook and clean up for congregational social events, etc.


D. Conscious work on payback and escalation of conflict

 So much of the violence in the community comes in the form of payback and escalation of violent situations.  So, someone is bullied or threatened or harmed in some way and his/her friends decide to get back at the perpetrator; then the perpetrator and friends want to get back, and the cycle continues. Discussions among the youth and the adults can center around strategies to deescalate conflicts. What would you do, etc.  A screening of the film PAY IT FORWARD can also lead to discussion.




In the area of bullying, as in every area, open communication lines are essential so that a young person feels free to tell you about what's happening. This is important whether the young person is doing the bullying or is the victim of bullying.



The movie Cyber Bully(2011) looks at the issue of online bullying through the eyes of a teen victim.  It deals with issues of homophobia and suicide. Good for home viewing and discussion.



After watching these PSAs from celebrities, ask the youth how they feel about what was said. 





Read a book with your child like ARTHUR'S APRIL FOOL by Marc Brown. See what kind of conversation it brings about.  Scholastic, as well as other groups, have lists of books about bullying online.


There are lists of movies about bullying on the internet.  Pick one and view it with your children. Sometimes talking about a character in a film can open up possibilities for conversation about what's happening in real life.


Younger and older children respond to role plays . Create role plays around situations that are made up by you or that are brought to you by the children.  For example...One of your classmates says to you-"I think I like your lunch better than mine. I'll just take yours."  Ask your child to act out what he or she could do; then have a discussion about what it means to stand up for yourself without hurting someone else, etc.


Studies have shown that if children feel stronger physically, they are less likely to be victims to bullying behavior.  Sports and other physical activities can help in this.


My humanity is bound up in yours, ipj 8

for we can only be human together.

Desmond Tutu


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