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A Solution to the Ferguson Crisis

Johann Christoph Arnold

Available languages: Deutsch

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  • John McColgan

    Officer Wilson had options other than shooting Michael Brown, just as Michael Brown had options other than attacking Officer Wilson. Being flawed humans they both made mistakes. What Pastor Arnold offers is a solution that may bring peace to all parties involved. You can see the pain in Michael Brown's mothers eyes when she speaks, forgiveness and an effort to bring about a greater good may be the key to decrease the pain of losing a son. What better example could Officer Wilson provide than to apologize and ask forgiveness for the taking of human life?

  • Johnny Mitchell

    what does have to apologize for, saving his own life? What if Brown would have gotten the gun? We would have never heard about the officer and his widow.

  • Tim Kraus

    I'm saddened to see so many hate filled and mis-informed comments on this page, particularly in response to such a thoughtful and respectful commentary by Johann. It is clear that we have a long way to go in this nation before people of color have even a chance of surviving and thriving. A few points in counter to the above comments. 1) Local and national Civil Rights leaders around the country, including Sharpton and Jackson, constantly work on combating black on black violence in our cities with violence reduction programs, counseling interventions and mass rallies. I know because I have been to some of those events....3) Michael Brown's family has repeatedly pleaded with all parties to not resort to violence in the aftermath of the Jury decision because they know it serves no positive end. We also do not know how much of this violence is perpetrated by planted provocateurs and how much by angry demonstrators. The Co-Intel Program still does operate in the United States. Additionally, the Ku Klux Klan has a major presence in Missouri and they have been deeply involved in support work for Officer Wilson as Annonymous discovered when they positively identified facebook pictures of Klan members as leading participants at the Officer Wilson Support Rally. The Bottom Line is blind and ill informed anger gets us nowhere. Compassion, dialog, and true reconciliation efforts are desperately needed for our nation to even begin the process of ending the stranglehold of 400 years of slavery in America.

  • Ursula Denise Walker

    Where is the Justice/One Family’s Plea November 30th of this year will mark one month that our 26-year old son, Christopher Richard Walker, was murdered in the streets of Altadena, California. Yet, there has not been one phone call or letter of condolence from one “Jesse Jackson” or “Al Sharpton--community” type. The local NAACP has been quite silent as well. There have been no marches, no yelling concerns “that they’re killing our children”-- no protests of any kind. Instead, our family (myself, Christopher’s mother, his dad and two sisters as well as his two daughters and his girlfriend—all those who loved him—are all supposed to simply go on with business as usual. For the record, Christopher had left his marketing job in downtown LA for the day and had stopped at a local burger stand in Altadena for a quick bite to eat before picking up his 5-year-old daughter from her aftercare school program. He was not causing any trouble, nor had he been in trouble—yet he was cowardly gunned down by someone from behind. He was an innocent victim—a tax payer and contributor to society who was cut down before he really had a chance to live his life. For the past several weeks the media has focused strictly on the Michael Brown/Police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. We have seen nothing but rioting in the streets and millions of dollars in property damage as businesses are thoughtlessly destroyed. Why, there even is a story of a St. Louis woman who accidentally killed herself with the gun that she had purchased for her own protection during the city’s unrest. All told, we may never know the lives and businesses negatively affected as a result of the constant violent protests to the Grand Jury’s decision. There is a statistic out there indicating that to date Police have killed over 5,000 civilians since September 11, 2001. However, my search for murders committed under the heading of gang violence (you know, mostly black-on-black and, or brown-on-brown), for one year alone in 2011 rendered a daunting number of 12,664. These people were most likely sons and daughters, and mothers, and fathers, who unfortunately all became victims of violent murder—in this one year alone. Let’s see now, not to downplay the value of life by any means—but, a total of 5,000 civilians nationwide over the last 13 years equals just about 385 people per year. Compared to the total of 12,664 in 2011 alone, (times 13 years), gives us 164,632 individuals—a percentage significantly higher by 103.13% than what we hear in news reports regarding racial killings and other details surrounding the death of this young man. Especially during this time when our own family is personally suffering the fresh and raw pain of the loss of a child, we have nothing to offer the family of Mr. Brown but our sympathy. However, the evidence shows that Mr. Brown had just finished stealing from a convenience store, that he was impeding traffic by walking in the street, and that he was extremely agitated and aggressive toward the local authority figures—things for all of which he should have been arrested. Though it was a terribly unfortunate situation that Mr. Brown seemingly had brought upon himself, the Ferguson protesters continue to focus their time and energy in destroying their own community all in the name of justice. But, where is the justice for Christopher Walker and others in his situation—who have been struck down by the numerous acts of gang violence so thoughtlessly perpetrated over the years? How long do our loved ones have to cry from the grave before we stop the insanity? Where are the marches for “Justice” for these? Are they any less important—or any less dead since they were actually killed by their own kind? When will we address the problem in our own back yard? Sincerely, Ursula Walker

  • Theresa Dowling

    Although Officer Wilson did the only thing he felt he could do when his life was threatened, I am sure that he is very sorry his reaction (remember we are talking here about split second decisions) resulted in the death of this young man. As for Michael being "unarmed" -- remember he was a very big man and he was using physical force. Still, Officer Wilson could make a statement that he is deeply grieved about this. But the situation remains--the corridor of spiritual and material poverty that haunts the inner city black communities cannot help but inspire angry desperation for those who must live there. Their schools are third-rate, and their families are broken. They are killing each other out of frustration. And our larger society, through its entertainments and preoccupations, teaches them that violence and sexual irresponsibility are ok. ] Think about it--even among people who call themselves Christian--violent tv and movies, sexual irresponsibility and pornography are thriving concerns--we are preaching the antithesis of the gospel by our preoccupations.

  • Mark

    I totally agree with Christopher and I'll add this. Just do some research on the background of these people and you will better understand our position. Here's a start... they stole money from their own grandma. They are [abusive term deleted - ed.] that are only after money, clear and simple. Matthew 7:6 Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

  • Jose Lopez

    All what everyone says could possibly come to be true. but lets think for a second about all of the black on black violence. I strongly agree with what the police chief of milwaukee says. Also Rudolph Giuliani mentioned something about all of the killings in black neighborhoods where is reverend Al Sharpton and his cronies? Is it right for a black to kill other blacks where some of the people have no mean to defend there selfs. We also say that there are to many guns being sold to the public. Most crimes are committed by armed people with illegal guns.

  • Dan Ziegler

    Thank you brother Christoph for the reminder that feedback loops of anger and violence can only be broken when someone breaks the cycle with forgiveness and non-retaliation. I really do imagine how a gesture from the police or the Officer Wilson could begin that process. However, I also imagine the possibility of the Brown family offering forgiveness as well, or perhaps a leader in the black community emerging to counter the rioting and looting by leading a peaceful and non-violent movement to address some of the underlying issues of race and policing in America - in the tradition of Dr. King.

  • Judy Todd

    Agree / Officer Wilson should reach out to the Brown family!

  • Christopher Deon Smith

    What did Officer Wilson do that requires forgiveness? He was attacked. His assailant tried to disarm him. He feared for his safety, if not his life. He stopped the assault in the quickest way he could and still minimize his own injuries. I'm sure he hates that he had to pull that trigger. I'm sure he will have nightmares and memories haunting him for the rest of his life. He did what most people would do to protect themselves if they had the training and equipment to do so. If forgiveness will heal Furgeson, then it should be attempted. Let the parents ask forgiveness for their son robbing a store. Let them plead to the store clerk whom he intimidated and frightened. Let them offer an apology to Officer Wilson for their son acting aggressively toward an officer of the law. Let them beg the city to forgive the actions they provoked with their cries of "Burn this bitch down!" I won't even get started on all the apologies Al Sharpton and his ilk should make, or the actions they should fall to their knees and beg forgiveness for.

  • Nicole Solomon

    After watching CNN all night as Ferguson exploded into fire, l wondered how such a situation could possibly find resolution between two sides who both feel so strongly and emotionally they are both right. What you offer here is such a clear answer to that! Thank you. I heard one news anchor this morning implore Ferguson that even if Wilson had been indicted it would not bring resolution they seek because Michael Brown is still gone. They also pleaded the only resolution comes through forgiveness. It is wonderful to hear news media and churches offering a real solution to such a very painful situation.

Pastor Johann Christoph Arnold is the author of Why Forgive? and a co-founder of Breaking the Cycle. Below we share two letters to the editor he has penned in response to the ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the shooting of an unarmed teenager.

Day 1:

As predicted, the Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. And as expected, chaos erupted and violence swept through the streets. The nation is watching fearfully, wondering how this will unfold. Michael Brown’s family is devastated and wants Wilson to be held accountable.

While all of this is understandable, this moment offers an opportunity to find a better way, one that will honor the memory of Michael Brown and bring peace to Ferguson.

For another perspective, see Dispatch from Ferguson by Eugene Rivers in Plough Quarterly No. 3.

South African novelist Alan Paton writes that if a crime has been done to you, there is only one way to recover, and that is to forgive. It is my experience working in public schools that forgiveness is the only thing that can break the cycle of violence. If this is true between children, how much more applicable is it for adults?

Darren Wilson should reach out to the family of Michael Brown and ask for forgiveness. The same needs to happen between the police department and the black community, to start rebuilding the trust that has been broken. Imagine if Officer Wilson would reach out and the family would accept his expression of remorse. Such an encounter would become a model for the entire world, wherever there are racial and ethnic tensions. It would show that violence need not always be countered with violence, but can be overcome with love, compassion, and forgiveness.

Day 2:

Our divided nation stands at a crossroads. From the president on down, we are assured that “the rule of law” has held the day. But where is the meaningful change we all hope for?

Many years ago, facing an equally polarized nation, another wartime president had a different vision. Abraham Lincoln sought not to assuage our fears, but rather redirected our national consciousness inward: “It is the duty of nations as well as of men…to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon.”

Who speaks with such clarity today? All of us – those in government and media, those who enact thoughtless criminality, and those who quickly seek to “move on” – must embark on a journey of reconciliation and forgiveness. If we don’t, we risk repeating the failures of history. But with such efforts, I have hope that Lincoln’s reassurance may yet ring true, “that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country.”

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Contributed By Johann Christoph Arnold Johann Christoph Arnold

A noted speaker and writer on marriage, parenting, education, and end-of-life issues, Arnold is a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities.

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