Our view: Religious connections help fight Erie violence
ERIE, Pa. — Looking to a higher power to help illuminate the path through life is a matter for faith.
Measuring what involvement in some kind of religious activity can do for young people is a matter of data.
That’s why an emphasis on “religiosity” is one of the foundational planks of the Unified Erie anti-violence initiative. The available data, including survey results from young people themselves, indicates that religious involvement is associated with directing young lives in a more positive direction.A hallmark of Unified Erie — a broad-based coalition of law enforcement, social service agencies and government — is that it bases its strategies not on assumptions or anecdotal evidence, but on empirical data about what works. That empirical evidence shows that regular involvement in some sort of religious activity correlates to more constructive behavior and more promising futures for young people.
As Ed Palattella reported in Sunday’s Erie Times-News, Erie County results from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey and other studies show that children and teenagers who participate in a religious activity for at least an hour a week are happier, do better in school, are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and are less inclined to engage in violent behavior.
The data shows that about 44 percent of youth in Erie County participate in that level of religious activity. That’s well below the state and national averages, according to Unified Erie’s analysis.
Those indicators are prompting Unified Erie to launch a six-week media campaign, “Take Me to Worship,” to encourage parents and other adults to get children involved with some kind of religious activity for at least an hour a week. The campaign will employ varied media channels, run from July 15 to Aug. 30, and be paid for with about $20,000 in private donations.
“Take Me to Worship” isn’t about any particular faith tradition or denomination. It’s about what a variety of religious traditions and institutions have in common — an aspiration to elevate the human spirit and condition. In the case of at-risk young people, the hope is that the benefits of religious involvement will help to override the damaging lures and dictates of the streets.
While all of the Erie region’s denominations and churches aim to connect people to God in keeping with their own traditions, many could use some help in reaching young people. In addition to the media campaign, Unified Erie is distributing “tool kits” to every religious organization in Erie County.
The tool kits offer ideas for how religious groups, many of which skew toward an older demographic, can draw in and engage children and families. That personal engagement is the key, according to Unified Erie’s Andrea Bierer.
“The key in the data is participation,” Bierer told Palattella. “It is different from internal belief.”
If you’re a person of faith, say a prayer that Unified Erie’s effort reaches young people who need it.
Erie Times News / GoErie.com | July 5, 2016