By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A group of Twin Cities clergy are taking the lead to confront the violence that has plagued the metro area.

On Thursday, they announced a major effort to deal with both the issue of gun violence and the underlying causes that contribute to the self-destructive behaviors in the community.

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Violence caught on camera, young people shooting and killing, memorials of the fallen and then more violence — it’s a cycle members of the faith community want to end.

“The African American church is rising up to address the dysfunction of this hour,” Rev. Alfred Babington-Johnson said.

African American religious leaders and community partners donated $100,000 to help deal with all that ails the community.

“Too many in our community have lost their lives, and many more have been wounded and crippled with dismissed prospects,” Babington-Johnson said.

The money will be used to hire street workers trained to engage the youth that are connected to the life-stealing gun violence plaguing the community.

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“I don’t want anybody out there without dental, without health insurance, without life insurance,” activist Spike Moss said. “You’re coming at a deadly situation without a bullet proof vest of a pistol.”

Moss says violence is a symptom of the core issues that need to be dealt with. Through the church, young people will have help in getting a GED, job training and mental health care.

“At the back of all this and at the front of all this is the churches,” Steve Belton said. “They will be supporting the individuals there. They will provide the base and the base. They will provide mentors coming out of the churches that will be assigned to each of these workers.”

The community of faith knows it won’t be easy. Street workers will be dealing with families where there are three generations of gang members.

“When I started in the 90s, the average age was 15,” Moss said. “Now you go down to 10 and work your way up to 50 and 60.”

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Members of the African-American clergy say this initiative is not coming from city or state government. The group welcome partners from business and philanthropy that want to help.

Reg Chapman