WASHINGTON (August 26, 1998) -- For far too many Americans, violence has become an accepted fact of life. The Catholic Communication Campaign's latest documentary, "Blessed are the Peacemakers," looks at three communities where individuals of faith are working to stop violence on the streets, between young people and in homes. The hour-long program will be fed to ABC-TV affiliates Sunday, September 27 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
In New Orleans, churches and synagogues from across the city have united to form ACT -- All Congregations Together -- an organization determined to purge their neighborhoods of the drugs, guns and delinquent landlords that were bringing them down. ACT is succeeding beyond all expectations in convincing city officials to take their concerns to heart. Supported in part by grants from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), ACT's 60 member congregations have brought together people from every conceivable walk of life to help make New Orleans a safer place to live.
Jesuit Father Greg Boyle and Paul Rodriguez, a Carmelite layman, are both peacemakers working where peace is scarce -- the streets of Los Angeles. By lifting young men out of lives of crime and into productive jobs, they are fighting gang culture one person at a time.
After presiding at the funerals of 57 young victims of gang violence, Father Boyle is determined to show kids that there are alternatives to this dangerous lifestyle. His "Jobs for a Future" Center helps find employment for at-risk youth. Paul Rodriguez is helping young people leave gangs and turn their lives around through an interdenominational movement called "Hope in Youth," initiated by Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and also supported by CCHD funding.
"Jesus was a peacemaker," says Cardinal Mahony in the documentary. "Jesus was willing to go out to people in all kinds of straits and difficulties and to call them to something better and higher. And I think that's what we need in our country, a deeper sense of the Gospel mission of creating peace in our neighborhoods."
More than three million American women are physically abused in their homes each year. "Blessed are the Peacemakers" goes to Appleton, Wisconsin, to meet three women who have confronted the pain of domestic abuse in their own lives and are now working to help other victims of violence in the home. A special women's shelter called Harbor House has helped them make the transition to lives free of violence. In nearby Green Bay, Catholic Social Services is working with men whose physical abuse of women has landed them in court ordered therapy sessions.
In these three communities, everyday peacemakers are truly proving the adage that one person can make a difference. Called by their faith, they are working to improve the quality of life for themselves and their neighbors. "Blessed are the Peacemakers" delivers their inspiring stories and a powerful message of hope.
"Blessed are the Peacemakers" was produced for the Catholic Communication Campaign by Sutherland Media Productions of Washington, D.C. It is one of four programs that make up the 1998 ABC interfaith "Vision and Values" series. Following the September premier date, videotapes of "Blessed are the Peacemakers" can be purchased through the USCC's Publishing Service (800-235-8722).