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Public event explores Biblical vision to combat New Orleans' crime issues

August 16, 2013

As a psychologist and theologian, Loyola University New Orleans Institute for Ministry professor and chair of the New Orleans Crime Coalition Michael Cowan, Ph.D., has a distinctive vantage point when it comes to crime and justice in New Orleans. While many say New Orleans is experiencing a rebirth since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, lingering issues of crime and justice remain. Cowan, who has played an important role in the reform of the city’s government and its criminal justice system since Katrina, will explore through a religious lens how the city has improved on these fronts—and describe work that still remains—in a free, public lecture Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.

The event—“For the Well-Being of the City: Crime, Justice and the Biblical Vision”—is set for Miller Hall, room 114 on Loyola’s main campus. Free parking is also available in the West Road garage accessible from St. Charles Avenue. The lecture will be streamed live online. Information on how to access the live stream is available online.

“Our local criminal justice system has made definite progress since the hurricane,” Cowan said. “Most of its individual agencies are functioning better, and in some cases, their cooperation is improved.” For the first time in the city’s history, for example, the office responsible for providing legal representation for those who cannot afford an attorney is functioning as it should, according to Cowan. The New Orleans Police Department is also making strides under the leadership of Superintendent Ronal Serpas to adopt the philosophy of community policing, according to Cowan.

“The challenge we face is reducing the numbers of young men killing each other because of the drug trade,” Cowan said. “This is a disaster for neighborhoods with high poverty rates and a worry for all citizens.” Mayor Landrieu’s “NOLA for Life” campaign is an attempt to address this issue holistically, but “it will not be easy,” Cowan said. “Such murders are the critical problem in most urban areas.”

That’s where the Biblical requirement that people of faith seek the peace of our cities comes in, according to Cowan. He points to the command in the book of Jeremiah: “Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its peace you will find your peace.”

An expert in interfaith and interracial community organizing, Cowan is also the director of Common Good, a network of civil society organizations he founded after Hurricane Katrina harnessing the power of collective action from the community to rebuild the city.

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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