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Stories about kids, guns and how to stop the violence. Precious Lives, created by 371 Productions, is a 2-year, 100-part weekly radio series about gun violence and young people in the Milwaukee area. The series applies a public health lens to each story to help listeners understand the full scope of the problem: who are the victims and the shooters; how are the weapons obtained; and what can we change about the environment that contributes to violence in Milwaukee?

#040 Precious Lives: How Milwaukee Faith Leaders Talk About Gun Violence

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ANNYSA JOHNSON/AJOHNSON@JOURNALSENTINEL.COM
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The Rev. Steve Jerbi comforts Maria Hamilton before a demonstration in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park where her 31 year old son, Dontre Hamilton had been shot by a police officer.";

Recently, a young man was shot in Milwaukee. Hours after leaving the hospital, he showed up at All People’s Church in the Harambee neighborhood. He stood before the congregation and asked for help. He wondered why he had survived, and what he could do to change his life.

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Credit Paul Kjelland
Milwaukee faith leaders Don Darius Butler, Gary Manning, and Steve Jerbi encounter challenges counseling congregates through experience with violence.

Faith leaders see firsthand how violence impacts their community. They’re expected to provide answers to the difficult questions.

Precious Lives' Brad Lichtenstein talks with three pastors who lead congregations with different relationships to violence.

Reverend Don Darius Butler is pastor of Tabernacle Community Baptist Church in Milwaukee, Pastor Gary Manning is at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa and Pastor Steve Jerbi leads All People's Church.

"I had a 17 year old that I visited in the hospital after he'd been shot in a robbery," Jerbi says. "The guy came up to him and wanted his jeans..took his jeans and shot him any way...I can't actually tell him he shouldn't have a gun because everything in his experience tells him he has to have that gun."

Being that Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the country, Brad asks the pastors how do we cross those racial boundaries.

"Distance is a reality...that must be bridged through authentic relationships,"Reverend Butler says. "The relationship that I've been able to establish with Pastor Jebri,...Rabbi Jacob Herber at Congregation Beth Israel in Glendale, these kinds of cross-cultural relationships help to draw attention to the needs of these inner city communities."

Pastor Manning says his church in Wauwatosa is in a very different context. "In some ways, we have been very isolated and insolated from the things that take place just a few miles away from us. We received a wake up call of sorts to the prevalence of gun violence on Christmas Eve of 2012. Our entire neighborhood was on lockdown as Wauwatosa police officers searched for clues and evidence related to the shooting death of Officer Jennifer Sebena," he says.

"That was the beginning to our understanding that we couldn't just show up on Sunday morning and pray prayers and say that, that kind of thing happens somewhere else," Manning says. "But we are still very much looking for how we engage that in a meaningful and consistent way, as opposed to assuming as the people from the 'burbs, we somehow have answers to the questions we don't even know how to ask yet."

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