(Image via Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times)
Arts and Entertainment Editor: Kamryn Kobel
On Wednesday, April 19th, the Campus Ministry Service and the Leduc Center for Civil Engagement brought the hammer down on gun violence with the help of Swords to Plowshares.
Swords to Plowshares is a program that “is focused on reducing gun violence in the communities in which events take place,” according to their website.
Although Massachusetts is the state with the lowest rate of gun violence in the US, “the rate of gun deaths [in Massachusetts] increased 16% from 2010 to 2019, compared to a 17% increase nationwide.”
Gun violence is an increasing problem not only throughout the country but in Massachusetts, too. That’s why Swords to Plowshares Northeast is working to “convert weapons of death into tools of life, and then use those tools to the betterment of the community” – right here in the Northeast.
Their goal is to reduce the number of firearms on the streets and create something out of them that brings communities together– in this case, garden tools.
Swords to Plowshares works with police departments to obtain guns that have been taken off the streets. The program then brings in prisoners, individuals in re-entry programs, and volunteer blacksmiths to turn these guns into tools.
After the guns are repurposed into garden tools, they are donated to communities and high schools that are looking to create gardens with local unused land.
The Campus Ministry Service (alongside the Leduc Center) invited Swords to Plowshares to visit the UMass Dartmouth campus.
One of the co-founders of the program, James Curry, is a Right Reverend and retired Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Another co-founder, Bob Bergner, is also an Episcopal priest and the pastor at Grace and St. Peter’s Church in Connecticut.
The Swords to Plowshares program has roots in Christianity – in fact, the name “Swords to Plowshares” comes from Isaiah 2:4: “And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
“The Campus Episcopal Church heard about Bishop Curry and this program. We’re interested in preventing gun violence. Just today, there were five people who were victims of gun violence,” said Professor Emerita Memory Holloway.
This event came in the wake of the shooting of Ralph Yarl, a sixteen-year-old boy who shot. He had gone to pick up his siblings from their friend’s house but got the address wrong, and the owner of the house answered the door with gunfire.
“The kid was six feet tall, he was going to get his twin siblings in Kansas City. It was just an errand, and he got lost. He rang the bell, he was shot, he collapsed.. And if he didn’t have a gun for those purposes, then that wouldn’t have happened,” Holloway argues.
I asked Holloway about the connection between gun violence prevention and the Episcopal Church.
“I think really it’s about how you see the way you treat other human beings. That’s what it is. It’s not dogma. It’s not rules. It’s the way in which we care for one another. The way in which we spend time with one another, how we trust one another, and especially how we don’t see differences in one another. You don’t ever react just because someone looks different from you– that’s the main point. It’s really about interconnection and how you live and relate to your community, how you give and receive from your community,” she said.
According to Holloway, the Guns to Garden Tools event was put on by Matt Roy (Assistant Vice Chancellor of the Leduc Center), Deirdre Healy (Director of the Leduc Center), Reverend Scott Ciosek (Rector of St. Peter’s Church), and Deacon Frank Lucca (Coordinator of the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life)
“It is a whole community,” Holloway urged.
“But mostly, about gun violence. That’s the most important thing, that’s the message. We’re trying to reduce the amount of violence we have towards each other– any violence. And we’re trying to cooperate more, communicate more, and trust each other more.”
“Banging weapons into tools you can use to grow things!” Holloway laughed.