Senior church leaders have announced ground-breaking strategies to help tackle the spiralling tide of deadly youth violence within communities, including freeing up space within church buildings for youth work, and waiving funeral service fees for teenage victims of knife crime to help their families.
The unprecedented plans were announced by a collaborative coalition of churches and organisations, following a closed meeting it held with around 30 denominational leaders in London on 9 May 2019.
Other moves include training in awareness of street youth issues for ministers, and a major youth expo in London on 4 July.
Reverend Les Isaac OBE, founder of the phenomenally successful Street Pastors and CEO of the Ascension Trust (the parent organisation behind Synergy Network, a partner in the coalition), described the high-level gathering as “very dynamic”. Speaking exclusively to Keep the Faith after the meeting, he said he was encouraged by the number of church leaders present: “We recognise that churches for many years have been doing some wonderful things within their denominations, but there was a real sense of collaboration and a desire to work together going forward in a greater sense from that meeting last night. This wasn’t just a meeting, but leaders are very serious that there will be some positive outcomes.”
The meeting followed the Standing Together Against Violence rally against knife crime and youth violence in Trafalgar Square on 6 April. Attended by several hundred Christians, it was jointly organised by the Ascension Trust, Southwark Diocese, London City Mission and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI).
Senior church leaders present included: Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster; the Rt Rev & Rt Hon Sarah Mullally DBE, Bishop of London; the Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark; the Rt Rev Bob Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton; Bishop Tedroy Powell, leader of the Church of God of Prophecy, and Rev Peter Colwell, deputy general secretary of CTBI. Sophie Lindon, the Mayor of London’s deputy for policing and crime, also attended and later joined families at the rally who had lost children to youth crime.
At a pre-rally prayer meeting for church leaders at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, Rev Nims Obunge, pastor of Freedom’s Ark and CEO of the Peace Alliance, told of how he was caught up in a stabbing incident after he tried to intervene to prevent a young man from being stabbed. He said: “Just two weeks ago, I could have been stabbed. When I think about that, I’m conscious how many of us are vulnerable. There was an incident right in front of me, where they were trying to stab a young man. I tried to intervene, but I thank God someone stopped the guy from being stabbed, and I kept myself at arm’s length. There’s no safe place.”
Chairman of Synergy, Bishop Len Rowe, told assembled church leaders: “The need for action cannot be overemphasised, and this need for action is not only from government but it is from all of us – from churches, temples, mosques, leaders. We, the Church, cannot stand idly by, but must fight together to overcome this.”
Reverend Isaac added: “We are people of faith. God has spoken and is speaking to us, and we really want to be a prophetic voice in this city, in this nation. We are saying to London and the nation that in the midst of this confusion, we are standing together.”
He added that the Ascension Trust, London City Mission, Southwark Diocese and CTBI are determined that the strong partnership between them will result in practical outcomes to this process.