God's help to cure the violence

By Dr. Shahid Athar

1972 was the year I left Chicago and came to Indianapolis to pursue my training. The mayor of Indianapolis was Richard Lugar and the crime rate was low. That year, there were 77 murders. The number homicides in 1997 was 160; In the first five months of 1998, it was 65.

Violence is a national disease to the proportion of an epidemic. If 40 jumbo jets crash every year, killing 500 passengers in each plane, it will get everyone's attention. But not homicides, which kill more than 20,000 Americans every year.

I am not surprised at the recent killings in Springfield, Ore., and Jonesboro, Ark., by young children, knowing that 1.2 million kids have access to guns. Five million firearms are in circulation in the United States, not including those possessed by law enforcement agencies. That's more than in any other civilized Western country.

Yes, we are No. 1. not only as the wealthiest and strongest nation, but with the highest crime rate as well. The United States has a homicide rate of 9.4 per 100,000 people, while that of the United Kingdom is 2, and Japan 1.2. 1 am concerned about crime statistics because they affect me. Even if I am not a victim, my children can be victims in a school shoot out. my home can be burglarized, my car can be stolen. my wife can be mugged on the street or I could be the victim of a drive-by shooting.

The root causes of crime are many. About 40 million people are below the povertv level, including 10 million children. Drugs are an easy way, to become rich. With drugs come crime. Alcohol is glamorized. Television, rap music and even certain comic books glamorize violence against women, minorities and everyone else. A child who watches two hours of television a day will see 5,000 acts of violence per year.

As a physician, I understand that lasting impressions are made on the brain when a child sees violence without pain inflicted. During situations when this child loses self-control, he may resort to violence just as he saw on TV.

This is an unforgiving society we live in. We become angry quickly and we want revenge. We have a lack of respect for the law. We have different sets of values, one for ourselves, and one for others. Most importantly, we have a lack of peace with ourselves. families, community, colleagues, co-workers, and above all, with our Creator.

We have limited The Creator to the house of worship, where we can visit him when we want but don't allow him into our homes and hearts to regulate our lifestyles.

It is not easy to suggest one treatment. We need to tackle it at every level and age. To begin with, we should stop buying toy guns for our children. Nor should we watch videos and movies that promote violence. We can install V-chips in our televisions, or when scenes of violence come, turn them off and use the occasion to explain to young people what violence can lead to.

We must regulate the number and type of guns available. If we have firearms at home, they should have a security lock. We must teach young people to control their anger and desire for revenge and teach them to settle disputes without resorting to provocative words or actions. We need to be more forgiving.

Mayor Stephen Goldsmith recently wrote, "government can lock up all of the criminals, but cannot produce good people." I agree. It Is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and people of faith to bring values into their own lives and the lives of their children at home and in school.

We must instill the value of sanctity of life and Invite God to be a member of our families. Prayer never hurt anyone, so let us pray for peace as taught by Prophet Mohammed: 'Oh Lord, You are peace, from You comes peace, let us live in peace. "

Reprint Requests:

Shahid Athar, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Indiana University School of Medicine
8424 Naab Road
Suite 2D
Indianapolis, IN 46260