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'We cannot give up': Macon faith leaders discuss how to stop the violence

Faith leaders in Macon say they are horrified by the violence they've seen in 2020, but they say there is still hope to turn the community around

MACON, Ga. — With the record-breaking number of homicides in Bibb County this year, you may be asking, "How do we stop the violence?"

With an average of one homicide a week, Bibb County has never seen violence like this before. 

Faith leaders in Macon say they are horrified by what they've seen in 2020.

RELATED: 'A symptom of a larger issue': Bibb County passes homicide record set in 1992

"When you look at the malicious acts that have happened this weekend, it's disturbing," says Belvin Ware, Youth Minister at Macedonia Baptist Church.

Pastor Christopher Cabiness with New Hope Baptist Church agrees.

"I've been very grieved by all that has transpired."

Both men are members of the Concord Project.

The group was formed earlier this year by the Bibb County Sheriff's Office with the goal of stopping violence before it starts.

It's a joint effort between the sheriff's office, local church members, and people in the community who have committed crimes.

They say the key to stopping violence rests with each member of the community. 

"It is heartbreaking to see our young African American boys and our young African American girls would take to the streets to handle their problems," says Ware.

He says the first step is to create equal resources across the county, including eliminating food deserts.

"When you look at the urban communities, they don't have the same amount of resources as they have in the other communities here."

Cabiness agrees.

"The pandemic has exposed us to issues such as insecurities, disparities, inequality, inequities. It has exposed us to the issues that have been plaguing our communities for the last 30 years.

Cabiness also says an important part of creating resources is bringing in businesses and keeping them here.

"There's a lot of industries that are leaving our city. There are a lot of industries that are coming, but also industries that have left various communities," he says. "We get crime, we get poverty, we get violence. We also get dilapidated properties and blighted properties."

He says stopping the senseless killing is all about accountability.

"Going to various calls, whether it be assault, suicides, homicides, one of the things I'm realizing is that 90 percent of what our local sheriff's office is doing is babysitting. They are literally having to be parents," says Cabiness. "If we can begin to focus in on holding individuals accountable, as well as parents accountable, I think that we can begin to see some change," 

Ware says over the years, after-school programs have disappeared.

He says we've got to push local leaders to bring them back because that is a great way to keep young people off the street and out of trouble.

A big part of the Concord Project's mentor program is all about conflict resolution.

"How are we teaching our young boys and our young girls, how are we teaching them to resolve conflict? Nobody wants to talk anymore," says Ware.

Cabiness also says it's time to find a new voice that will resonate with young people because it is no longer religious leaders or law enforcement.

"We gotta be able to identify voices amongst this generation that is carrying out these acts of violence who will be able to share their voice and that generation will be able to listen." 

He says he think that responsibility falls on people involved in nightlife and entertainment.

Cabiness says he is working on putting together a "nightlife societal coalition" to be that voice and make sure everyone who goes out to have fun, will make it back home to their families.

Ware says he is calling on elected leaders to stop bickering back and forth and enact real change before more people die.

"There are many other things that we need to be dealing with other than discrimination and naming a building. We have a lot more things we need to deal with because if we don't deal with the things we need to deal with, then the building won't be there and the people won't be here to decide if they are being discriminated upon or not."

Despite all the violence, both men agree that there is still hope, love and peace in this community, and there are people actively working to make Macon the best it can be.

"There are streams of hope that our community can drink from and there are invested stakeholders," says Cabiness. "There is still love in our community. There's still peace in our community and we cannot give up."

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