Pan London Churches Serious Violence Summit

By Rev Ruth Turner

This is what the Lord says:

“A sound was heard in Ramah.

It was painful crying and much sadness.

Rachel cries for her children.

And she cannot be comforted,

because her children are dead!”

Jeremiah 31:15

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Pan London Churches Serious Violence Summit, Southwark Cathedral, 13th November 2018. Photo: Southwark Diocesan Communications

What can my Church do? What can the wider Church do?

Violence rose by 20% in this last year and not just in London. Causes are complex but poverty, mental health, government spending and social exclusion all contribute.

Sophie Linden (Deputy Mayor for Crime and Policing) thanked us as Churches for the work we are doing with the families affected by murder.

Revd Les Isaacs OBE (founder of Street Pastors) commented that one of their key successes is removing weapons from the streets. We as Church are good at social justice, yet 119 people lost their lives this year.

Families affected are saying: “We would like the Church to help us navigate this time”. Many have no idea about procedure (eg they can’t get on with funeral arrangements - murder investigations take time). There is little or no support for the families.

The Church has been around for a long time but we need to work together to tackle the issue of violene and work towards a ceasefire.

Mercia Perin (XLP mentor) brought her perspective as a young person. She thanked us for asking young people to be involved in the solution. We can ask them to come to churches to explain what is going on.

It takes a village to raise a child and the same village can kill a child. If young people do not feel cared for they will burn the village to feel its warmth.

She as a young person said: “Let us be involved and give us self-worth”

Mike McKeaveney (Assistant Director Southwark Board of Education) pointed out that none of the youth involved in killing were in full time education – exclusion from school has a major effect on crime statistics. Apparently Church schools exclude less than other schools. Can the clergy support schools more? Every child is created in the image of God (but no child is perfect). There needs to be a strong message of inclusion, especially among the most vulnerable, and strong moral leadership.

Leroy Logan (retired Met Superintendent) said that children can so easily be drawn/manipulated into crime, especially, but not exclusively, from broken homes. We need to support families and understand faith in action – we need to open our hearts to those we see as unclean. We need a paradigm shift.

Ben Lindsey founder of Power the Fight and NFI Pastor (Workshop) says it’s easy to think of the problems of youth violence as being ‘out there’ but this affects the whole of Britain – their story must become our story. The Church can be part of the answer. It’s not just about rescuing people who are drowning we need to work out the cause of why they are in the water.