Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), a ministry often associated with ethnic reconciliation across the world, has joined the campaign against media violence in America.The Chicago-based group opposes the decision of the Chicago Planning Department to give a $2.2 million economic development grant to Midway, the firm that manufacturesMortal Kombat. Protesters in downtown Chicago wore royal robes and sang Christmas carols with rewritten lyrics during a demonstration in January. Dressed to represent the wise men from the Epiphany story, the protesters had traveled from as far as Vancouver bearing "Games for sharing, dolls for caring, never for violent play."Denouncing guns, tanks, Power Rangers, and graphic video games, CPT protesters outside a Toys R Us store drew strange looks and large crowds with their message against violent entertainment.In theMortal Kombat video game, players may decapitate or rip out the hearts of their opponents. The makers of two other violent video games,Quake andDoom, were sued last year in connection with a 1997 school shooting in Paducah, Kentucky.Educators, child psychologists, and profamily groups have heavily criticizedMortal Kombat and other violent games and toys for their content and suspected role in promoting violent acts. "Our goal is violence reduction, whoever it is linked to," says Mervin Stoltzfus, CPT director. "Games that focus on killing raise kids who think it is OK to kill."The organization's position on violent games and toys is backed by experts, including psychiatrist Thomas Radecki and Arnold Goldstein, director of the Center for Research and Aggression at the University of Syracuse. "Playing with war toys legitimizes and makes violent behavior acceptable," Goldstein says.A survey by the American Medical Association (AMA) also suggests that parents are increasingly concerned with violent toys and media. In 1997, before recent school shootings, 81 percent of parents interviewed told the AMA that television shows and computer games for children needed higher standards of violence regulation. The CPT protest included a visit to City Hall. Demonstrators presented a statement against violent toys to representatives of Mayor Richard Daley before marching to Toys R Us.A city official said Midway received the grant so the company, which has operated in Chicago for more than 50 years, could expand its operations. The city says that without the grant Midway would have relocated, leaving about 700 local workers pressed for new employment."Public money should not be going to companies that sell violent war toys for children," CPT member Erin Kindy told the Associated Press.CPT grew out of Mennonite efforts to promote international peace in troubled areas around the world. Quakers, Methodists, Roman Catholics, and other Christians have joined to promote peace in the United States and Canada."There's an increase in the willingness to look at violence and do something about it," Stoltzfus says. For instance, Mennonites have asked CPT to help congregations denounce violence in Western media and culture.CPT has published a pamphlet that includes tips for planning a protest, sample leaflets, and educational resources about violent toys. Peace organizations and churches from Kansas to Canada have begun to use CPT methods of protest.The Mennonite Central Committee has also sponsored The Games Project, which is dedicated to rating violence and horror in video games, as well as recommending games that promote education, creativity, tenacity, and skill."If there were just 500 congregations across the country that were willing to make [protests against violent toys] a ministry focus, we would see tremendous and significant change in toy manufacturing and sales," Stoltzfus tells CT.
See our related article from the June 14, 1999 issue ofChristianity Today, "Taking on Tinseltown | Parents of slain classmates say media are to blame."The Christian Peacemaker Teams Web site offers more information about the organization, but has little of substance on the Chicago protest.The Games Project site offers information and reviews of nonviolent video games.
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