Ministers trying to tackle the problem of youth gangs in Spokane hope to learn something from their big-city brethren this weekend.
The Rev. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest from the gang-infested barrios of East Los Angeles, is a featured speaker for the second Youth Violence and Gang Conference in Spokane on Saturday. He also will appear at two related events.
Boyle, a Gonzaga University graduate and the subject of a 1995 book on his ministry, preaches nonviolence and hope to the murderous gangs that roam outside his church.
He has buried dozens of young gang members, and nearly been hit by gunfire.
Boyle will appear at the conference at Central United Methodist Church, 518 W. Third, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The cost is $10. Gang members are invited to attend for free.
Also expected at the conference are Joel and Joe Perez, a father-son team who rose from Chicago’s gang world to run a recreational ministry called God’s Gym outside Chicago.
Also on Saturday, Boyle will appear at 7 p.m. at the Pence Union Building at Eastern Washington University during an evening of gospel music and discussion about gangs.
The event is sponsored by United Ministries at EWU and will feature a performance by the Rev. Isiah Jones Jr., a gospel singer and minister from Oregon State University. Jones has helped gang members in Los Angeles.
Boyle also is scheduled to talk Friday night at 7 p.m. at Gonzaga’s Jundt Art Center. The event, which is open to the public, is sponsored by the organizational leadership program at GU.
Patrick Copeland-Malone, outreach director at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, said mainstream ministers are increasingly taking steps to steer young parishioners away from gangs.
Spokane police estimate there are as many as 500 gang members here, and another 1,000 youths who associate with them.
“These kids are part of the fabric of our church community,” Malone said. “Most of us, quite frankly, are afraid.”
Malone said churches can provide an alternative to the camaraderie and social interplay of gangs.
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