Earlier this week in Chicago, four young people allegedly kidnapped and tortured an 18-year-old man and livestreamed about a half hour of their attack on Facebook. The four alleged attackers are in police custody, and the victim is back with his family.
The victim and one of the alleged attackers, Jordan Hill, went to the same high school. Allegedly, Hill invited the victim to meet him at a McDonalds on Dec. 31. From there, they drove around and slept in a stolen van. When the victim had not come home by Monday, his parents called police to notify them that he was missing. Later, his parents received text messages from people who claimed to be holding their son captive.
On Tuesday, the victim was at the apartment of two of the alleged attackers, where according to Reuters, “The victim was tied up for four or five hours, gagged and beaten. His scalp was cut and he was forced to drink toilet water.” Police located the victim later Tuesday outside in freezing temperatures wearing only a tank top, shorts, and sandals.
The four alleged attackers are each being charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
A hate crime is “a crime, usually violent, motivated by prejudice or intolerance toward an individual’s national origin, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.” The victim is a white, disabled man and the alleged attackers are African Americans. On the Facebook post, the attackers can be heard shouting expletives about white people and about Donald Trump. (No news reports say that any of the alleged attackers have disabilities).
Chicago police commander Kevin Duffin made the case for a hate crime charge: “His diminished mental capacity, the fact that they tied him up, the obvious racial quotes on — that they post live on Facebook — I mean taken in the totality of the circumstances, the state's attorney agreed with us.”
In his book on sin, Cornelius Plantinga describes sin as “culpable shalom-breaking.” Judging by the Facebook video, the attackers were not just culpable but brazen in their actions, live-streaming some of their torture and even allowing their own faces to appear in the video. In this attack, they broke shalom, not only the shalom of the victim, but also of his parents, family, friends, people in Chicago, and perhaps an entire nation.
Both the victim and his parents had their trust deeply betrayed. The three of them thought that the victim would be hanging out with a school acquaintance, never suspecting that it would end with hours of torture. I can only begin to imagine what these parents were feeling when they finally heard about their son’s ordeal — at the very least, relief at being reunited, guilt and remorse that they did not protect him, and anger at his attackers.
Although President Obama called the attack “despicable,” many people on social media claim that this attack is a legacy of 8 years of his presidency. Similarly, others claim that this attack is an outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter movement, even using a hashtag, #BLMkidnapping, in Twitter posts to tie the two together. The alleged attackers themselves made no connection between their actions and Black Lives Matter.
I fear that racist whites will use this incident not only as an opportunity to spout their racism on social media, but also to engage in racist attacks. I can’t help but wonder if many parents of African American young people are pleading with their kids to stay home the next few days to avoid becoming victims of revenge attacks.
What can we Christians do in light of this painful news? Here’s a humble suggestion: pray for shalom. Pray for physical and emotional healing for the victim, his parents, family, and friends. Pray that fear and trauma will fade over time for them, and that someday they will be able to forgive his attackers. Similarly, pray for healing of the pain and/or anger that motivated his attackers to engage in their violent actions. Pray for a fair trial and just sentences. Pray that the accused will be treated with dignity and respect, and that they will soften, not harden, through this incident and its aftermath. Pray that people who try to use this incident in social media to stir racial hatred will find their voices ignored. Pray for law enforcement, leadership, and the people of Chicago which has seen the highest rate of violent crime in 20 years. Pray for people with disabilities who, according to the World Health Organization, “are 1.5 times more likely to be a victim of violence than those without a disability, while those with mental health conditions are at nearly four times the risk of experiencing violence.” Pray that the apparently escalating racial hatred in the United States will de-escalate, and we who are of various ethnicities will be able to listen to and respect one another and share power in a just, shalom-filled way. Pray that God’s kingdom will come, his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.