Turning to citizens to help address their city’s crime rate, Winnipeg chief of police Devon Clunis recently called for a rather unorthodox civic action: prayer. Prayer, Clunis suggested, might be an answer to Winnipeg’s crime problem, and he asked that citizens of all faiths consider participating. As an interfaith organization, the Universal Life Church finds Clunis’s regard for diversity and respect for multiple faiths very encouraging, but there is an even more crucial opportunity at play here.
It’s important to understand the psychological process of prayer, regardless of an individual’s religious beliefs. What happens when a person prays? There’s obviously an issue at hand, be it a plea for assistance or an expression of apprehension or appreciation. Prayer encourages an internal dialogue, promoting meditation and focused thinking. The participant automatically begins to internalize his or her own goals and intentions, and the appeal at hand benefits from thoughts targeted on action.
Chief Clunis’s prayer request has the ability to reset civilian minds. His call doesn’t imply that people should pray and wash their hands of civic duty. Instead, his appeal may actually encourage positive thought processes that appeal to basic tenets of civilian behavior.
It’s hard to see the harm in that, but there has been some resistance to the idea from both non-religious and religious citizens, who may find Clunis’s prayer request to be an inappropriate insertion of spirituality into civic government. Where does the Universal Life Church stand on this debate? We are universal champions of freedom of religion and freedom from religion, but we see no forceful measures being taken by this simple request.
Has the chief of police declared martial law, insisting that residents pray or else? This is clearly not the case, and he has taken the additional step of embracing the freedom to pray to any religious head. No one is being strong-armed into participating, nor is anyone being rewarded for praying or punished for not praying. Beyond this obvious alignment with our position, we see an added opportunity to eliminate negativity.
Clunis’s detractors appear to be merely naysayers at this point, with no valid counterpoints or tangible alternatives to alleviating crime in Winnipeg. In fact, these individuals might be better off attempting to see the potential value in this proposition. Is Winnipeg’s crime rate going to plummet if even a portion of the population responds to Clunis’s appeal? Perhaps not, but the end result is a larger group of citizens with their minds turned to the basics: responsibility, action and a sense of right and wrong.