Thursday morning, 8:30 AM. The alarm on my phone rings. An interruption. Some mornings I’m on a walk in the peaceful neighborhoods near my home. Other mornings, I’m feeding my dogs or throwing a load of laundry into the washing machine. Ordinary life, momentarily put on hold by an alarm that brings to mind another life interrupted.
Mr. Jaswinder Singh. 68 years old. A man of faith who enjoyed making his loved ones laugh. A good friend and beloved grandfather. At a time when many have retired to a more leisurely lifestyle, he took a job at the Indianapolis Fed Ex facility because he liked to stay active. On April 15, 2021 his life was interrupted when he was shot while picking up his first paycheck. Mr. Singh, along with eight of his fellow employees, had their lives forever interrupted, cut short by gun violence, and their murders have ongoing ripple-effects throughout the community of people who loved them. Tragically, these victims were not alone. From James Anderson Sr., the first person murdered this year in Indianapolis on January 1, through Andrew Jones, the most recent victim, 218 of our fellow citizens have been shot and killed so far this year. Not included in this grim total are many more people who were only wounded or who died by suicide. Each number represents a life interrupted.
As a Christ-follower who is passionate about social justice, I felt the need to “do something” about gun violence in our community. But what? In the face of such an overwhelming problem, it was tempting to become paralyzed. As with so many situations, the Bible provides answers: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26). God is capable of redeeming even the most devastating situations. And a second verse: “Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). When I couldn’t do anything else, I could pray. The Orange Ribbon Project gave me the opportunity to do that.
I started attending St. Luke’s almost two years ago, and I soon met a passionate group of peacemakers who work tirelessly to combat gun violence in our community. While the Gun Violence Reduction group is involved in many activities, the one that attracted me was the Orange Ribbon Project. The Orange Ribbon Project has been recruiting fellow St. Lukers to pray for the families of people who have been murdered in our city during this past year and to also pray for a solution to the problem of gun violence. I joined the Orange Ribbon project and chose Mr. Singh as my person to pray for. Every Thursday morning my alarm rings, reminding me to pray for the family and friends who still mourn his loss, for all the victims in our community and for effective solutions. To pray for an end to the tragedy of lives interrupted.
In October I was blessed to participate in a memorial service in front of the church. The names of each shooting victim were read aloud, and an orange ribbon with their name on it was tied to one of the trees near our building as a way of remembering the people behind the statistics. I was moved to tears as the names of the many victims were recalled, one as young as seven, with her whole life before her, and others older than Mr. Singh. Each person left behind someone who loved them, who was still grieving their absence. Our greater community was diminished by the loss of contributions the victims might have made, had they lived.
How I wish there was no need for an Orange Ribbon Project, but until Indianapolis comes to more closely resemble God’s peaceful kingdom, the shootings will go on and lives will be interrupted. Although the problem is daunting, we can all be peacemakers in a small way. Won’t you join the Orange Ribbon Project and allow your life to be interrupted as we work and pray for peace?