Our church and community were shaken last week with the random and senseless attack on two daycare parents in front of our church on Canal Street in New Orleans. We who live in New Orleans are used to crime around the city. But what really shakes us up is that this happened in front of a church, a place that is supposed to be welcoming and safe for any person who may come on the church property.
As a pastor, my heart goes out to all those affected by this tragedy. The victims, the parents of our daycare, the kids, and the community around us have had to re-think those places where we normally feel “safe.” The attacker destroyed our feeling of safety and attacked someone in our community, which is hard to forgive. Forgiveness is hard to do, especially in such circumstances. But exercising forgiveness, in this case, is only the first step to helping solve a greater problem in many of our cities across the United States.
While I don’t know Uhuru’s behavioral or mental issues, it becomes apparent that she is typical of many cases in our urban areas. There is an overall lack of access to mental health. For those who do have access to mental health, there is often a lack of coordination between agencies. While our local police were quick and responsive to the call on the day of attack, there is only so much that police and the judicial system can do for long-term care of those in need of mental health.
Jesus was known for spending His time among the marginalized of society. Yes, he spent time with the powerful, but he mostly spoke truth to those in power. I think one of the “truths” they need to hear is that our mental health care system is broken.
The issues and problems of accessibility to mental health are complex. I do not claim to be an expert, but I do know this: Jesus would have wanted Uhuru to have a better life than she did. Uhuru’s problems have now become our problems. Our community needs to work together to help others who are suffering.
A version of this piece originally appeared in “Letters to the Editor” of The Advocate.