The dramatic growth of violence in our community should not surprise any person who believes in God and the wisdom of the Ten Commandments. The love of God and the love of our fellow man ensure the kind of peaceful society most people dream about.
But the steady decline in Church attendance by all denominations, and the skimpy religious and moral formation given by many parents to their children and teachers to their students, especially in secondary schools, make it inevitable, that respect for God and our neighbour will be eroded.
In addition to this we have the breakdown of marriages and/or de facto relationships. When there are children involved their unstable upbringing far too often produces angry young adults ever ready to lash out at people either verbally or physically.
The widespread misuse of alcohol and drugs of various kinds is another factor in provoking anti-social behaviour.
Taking all these things into account, it should be clear, that a respect for law and order and a recognition of the rights of others, does not always happen by chance. It has to be nurtured in the heart of every individual.
It starts at our mother's knee when she helps us make our first faltering efforts to pray. It continues to grow as children observe how parents treat one another, and people around them. It is enforced by sound instruction in Christian doctrine at school and in Church. Finally, it is made easier by enlightened governments who ensure adequate housing, plentiful employment and widespread recreational facilities for all people.
There is probably no short term solution to the problem of violence on our streets. More police patrols may curtail the number of assaults, but they will do nothing to eradicate the cause of the problem.
The long term solution is for Christian parents and educators to have confidence int he wisdom of Christian moral values. They make sense and they should live this faith they profess with humble perseverance.
The clergy must continue to preach the gospel ".... in season and out of season.." as Paul reminded Timothy and they should not lose their nerve just because "people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect for themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes."
Furthermore, those responsible for the mass media of television, films and computer games need to be called to account for the constant diet of foul violent language, murders, bashings and rapes that dulls people's sense of horror for such acts. Stricter self-censorship by the producers of such desensitising entertainment should surely be insisted upon by governments. As citizens too we should not hesitate to use the telephone or write letters to register our dissatisfaction. There is definite evidence to suggest that frequent exposure to the sordid side of human behaviour in many individuals does incite to imitation. Responsible leaders in the media need to be conscious of this and if needs be put their houses in order.
The present Victorian government and our police force face an enormous challenge in stamping out the brutual behaviour of undisciplined citizens. All citizens of goodwill should wish them well.
Fr Barry Tobin PE