Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

December 29, 2007

Mentors can turn kids away from life learned on streets

Julie Bykowicz captures the pessimistic attitude of city's juvenile justice system in "Arrest a child, rescue a life" (Dec. 23) - an article that underscores the incongruous correlation between incarcerating a child and delivering that same child from harm's way.

But it is no wonder that expectations are so low for a child caught in a city juvenile justice system that is more often measured by its failures than its successes and in a city where we are more likely to note the number of yearly homicide victims and shootings among the young than the number of high school graduates and youth leaders.

The streets are the classrooms for these kids, whose crimes are cries for help and guidance.

And isn't it ironic that the offending youths are often returned to the same community that was the original breeding ground of their criminal activity, or to parents or guardians who have already proved unable to supervise and control these youths?

An effective governing force leads by example, proving its leadership by enforcing laws and sentences and giving positive reinforcements to those whom productively give back to the community.

Our focus needs not to be on community detention programs but on mentoring programs, which are now inadequately staffed and funded in this city - programs that give kids hope for a future that may break the cycle of dependency and institutionalization.

Mentors can set positive examples for the youths and guide them away from the kind of life learned on the streets.

Melissa McDonald

Baltimore

The writer is co-executive director of StandUp for Kids, a group that provides services and support to homeless youths and other at-risk children.

Bethlehem Muslims drive out Christians

Perhaps it's in the spirit of the season that the article "Pilgrims return to celebrate Christmas" (Dec. 25) explored neither the extent nor the true reason for "Bethlehem's ever-shrinking Christian population."

But Bethlehem's Christian population declined drastically after the Palestinian Authority took control of the area in 1995.

Once 90 percent of the local population, Christians now are less than 25 percent, with some estimates putting their numbers as low as 12 percent.

How did this happen? And why is it continuing, with hundreds of Christians emigrating per year?

This article follows the media's usual pattern, implying that part of the reason is "the presence of Israel's massive separation barrier."

Well, Israel did build a barrier between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, with a tiny segment, facing a major Israeli roadway, being a concrete wall to stop the targeting of Israeli motorists by gunmen. But Bethlehem is not surrounded by any wall.

How this Christian exodus actually happened can be summed up in the words of a Bethlehem Christian community leader quoted in a WorldNetDaily report in 2005: "You want to know what is at play here, just come throughout the year and see the intimidation from the Muslims. They have burned down our stores, built mosques in front of our churches, stole our real estate and took away our rights. Women have been raped and abducted. So don't tell me about Israel. It's the Muslims."

Muslim hostility has also taken the form of gangs defacing and confiscating Christian property, of the Palestinian Authority under President Yasser Arafat replacing Christian leaders on public councils with Muslims, and of armed Palestinian factions stirring up tensions.

The article quotes Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, who refers to Israel as "a land of humiliation of one people at the hand of another."

Ironically, this phrase more aptly describes the treatment of area Christians by Muslims.

Nelson L. Hyman

Randallstown

Crossing a border shouldn't be crime

The author of the letter "Securing our border doesn't negate faith" (Dec. 27) wrote that he opposes illegal immigration and wants "our borders closed and sealed."

I also oppose the idea of "illegal immigration," but in a very different sense. I oppose the very concept that immigration should be illegal.

It's not a crime to cross a river or arbitrary line in the middle of the desert.

I welcome all peaceful and honest people to be my neighbors, regardless of where they were born or what imaginary lines they crossed to get here.

Mike Klein

Hanover

Leave the leaves to decay in place

Janine Wood's column "Good time to set aside suburban squabbles" (Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 18) caught my eye.

Ms. Wood described her yard as including a border of woods where the leaves fall, decay and enrich the soil. A neighbor, upset that some leaves blew into her yard, suggested that if she could afford to live in their neighborhood, she could afford a weekly landscape service.

I had to laugh, as the first time I mowed the lawn at my present home, neighbors asked what I was doing.

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