A group of about 20 concerned Latino mothers gathers on Fridays—typically one of the more violent nights of the week—at the Dolores Mission parish in Los Angeles to pray. The women regularly ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" After their Friday night prayers, they follow up on what they believe is an answer to the question.

The group, with bullets sometimes flying overhead, walk through their children's turf carrying signs that read "We Love You" and "Don't Kill Each Other." They then invite whoever they find on the streets to their next barbecue for the youth of the barrio. The shooting quiets down, if only for the duration of the walk. But the witness of their walk is not lost on anyone.

"The parish's work has really brought the community closer together," says Grumpy, 23, a member of the Clarence Street Locos gang.

With about 6 million violent crimes committed annually, Americans have become intensely concerned about safety for themselves and their children. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 44 percent of respondents believe that the most important issue for government to deal with is crime, compared to the 34 percent who put health-care reform as most important.

The Clinton administration has put crime legislation near the top of its legislative priorities for this year. But the $22 billion crime bill has drawn criticism for its approach to solving crime by simply spending more money on prisons and police. A central irony in the debate is that while the U.S. prison population has increased fourfold since the 1960s, violent crime has gone up 560 percent.

As lawmakers in Washington labor on the crime bill, Christians and churches are working in little publicized ...

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