WILMINGTON, Del. — With 26 people murdered here last year, Michael Tyson, OFM, thought it was time for St. Paul’s Parish to speak out against violence.
“A week after Todd Carpenter, OFM, and I arrived at St. Paul’s Parish in Wilmington last summer, a 27-year-old woman was murdered about five blocks away,” said Michael. Many of those murdered lived right near the church. In January, a drug murder took place in front of St. Paul’s School.
To speak out about the tragic neighborhood violence, Michael organized a March for Nonviolence and Racial Harmony that drew roughly 250 people from St. Paul’s church and school, and other parishes. It took place Jan. 19, on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Chanting slogans from the writings of Dr. King, like, “violence is not the answer,” the group also sang songs like, “What Color is God’s Skin,” and recited the peace prayer of St. Francis. After marching about a mile, the friars returned to the church and offered a prayer service.
Justice and peace efforts are nothing new to Michael, who relocated to Wilmington from the Bronx, N.Y., where he ministered in a diverse section of the borough. While in the Bronx, he often participated in peace marches in nearby Manhattan.
He told The Dialog, the newspaper of the Wilmington Diocese, “My idea was to create some kind of atmosphere where people could vent some of their frustrations over violence.”
At the reception following the service, Michael and the friars collected names to begin an ecumenical Nonviolence Coalition. The first order of business is to write letters to senators and representatives, asking for better treatment of immigrants.
This effort is in conjunction with the parish’s Voces Sin Fronteras group, or Voices without Borders, according to Michael. The group hosts activities that are justice and peace related. For example, he said, there were police raids recently to arrest non-documented people. Voces sponsored a workshop for people caught in such circumstances, advising them on how they should respond to avoid being detained.
In addition to The Dialog, the News Journal and El Tiemp Hispano reported on the march on Jan. 20.