Sun, Jul 27, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Gang members seek Buddhist peace

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , MASSACHUSETTS

DeMoura said, "This program is definitely not going to reduce the amount of gang violence on the streets today, but our hope is that it will reduce the amount of gang violence tomorrow."

While three boys intently tried to walk across the room with glasses filled with water, boys on the sidelines heckled them. Pinn gave a cup to the smallest boy, who swatted it away and swore under his breath. "Don't you want to be a good boy?" the monk asked the 11-year-old.

All of the boys soon followed the monk across the room, where, at last completely silent, they knelt in front of a shrine to Buddha and clasped their hands in prayer. The monk sounded the gong for three prayers to Buddha. On each chime the boys, in unison, bowed.

"Nice, very nice," the monk said.

After the monk left, the boys reverted to their streetwise selves. Wearing dickies in the colors of their gangs, they bragged in salty language about brushes with the law and getting jumped in gang initiation. But minutes later they were sneaking chocolates from the monks' kitchen and rolling on the floor.

None of them said they would leave a gang any time soon. Were they to quit, not only would other gangs be after them, but the spurned gang would as well, they said. They get in trouble because there is nothing else to do, they said. But the program has taught them about the importance of education and respect. They know they are here to improve themselves, and all of them said they would try to stay out of trouble and do well in school, so as not to disappoint Soth or the monks.

The boys come because the temple is the only place they know they will be safe and stay out of trouble.

"We use our anger outside," one of the boys said. "When we're in here we're peaceful. It's the only peaceful place we can find."

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