“This place is like a war zone.”

The description of one of our nation’s largest cities – Chicago, Illinois – could not have been more bleak. It came from Cisco Cotto, Pastor of Village Church in the suburb of Oak Park.

“Imagine this:” he continued. “You’re the parent of young children. You live in a neighborhood , not necessarily because you want to but because its all you can afford. And no matter what your kids do, day or night, playing in the front yard or walking to school, or even laying in their bed at night sleeping, they might get hit by a stray bullet. The fear that these families are experiencing; it’s overwhelming.”

Cotto is no stranger to bad news. Having worked for years as a broadcast news anchor and talk show host in Chicago, he knows the city better than most.

He also knows that the bad news in his region of the world has become quite pervasive. “My wife and I were recently in the United Kingdom, both in England and Scottland, and I had people asking me about violence in our city. I hope Chicago’s leaders, Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel and others, know that this is the reputation that we’ve developed around the world.”

While pursuing his media career, Cotto also pursued graduate theological studies at Moody Bible Institute. Today he’ll still do the periodic guest hosting stint on talk radio, but he’s primarily heard from a pastor’s pulpit – and he has lots to say about the city he loves.

“As a believer in Christ, I think we’re seeing the limits of what people can accomplish apart from Christ” he stated. “We’re seeing the limits of secular government. We’re seeing the limits on people’s abilities to control negative situations.”

He explained what happened at a recent gathering of clergy in his area. “I was with a group of Pastors from Chicago and the suburbs, and we spent our time crying out to God for a miracle. I believe it will take a miracle to stop what is happening in Chicago. It is so far beyond the capabilities of men and women to handle.”

Cotto says that the church he serves is not in the thick of Chicago’s violence, but is nonetheless a quarter of a mile away from its epicenter. He has some strong words for the rest of the country.

“Just as we are called to pray for a Christian who is in a predominantly Muslim country and fears for their live daily, we also need to pray for those whose lives are at risk in Chicago. You can’t send money to fix this. I suppose you can relocate to Chicago. But we treat the call to prayer like its a throwaway matter, and yet when we pray we call on the greatest resource there is. Please join us in praying for a miracle to heal Chicago.”

You can hear the full interview with Cisco below:

A Christian perspective on urban violence

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