Statement from Bob Fyffe, General Secretary at Churches Together in Britain & Ireland
It’s difficult to overstate the drastic effect serious youth violence has on all the individuals, families and local communities caught up in each situation. Every situation, every life lost and every family nursing a deep bereavement represents a failure somewhere within the system of care and support. The nurturing that gives a sense of value, of worth, to young people doesn’t just come from families, often struggling to make ends meet, but also from local communities where suspicion, local group and gang identity, as well as a chronic lack of youth provision and local amenity serve to create the perfect ground for trouble.
It’s not new either. Serious youth violence has been around for many generations, especially in big cities. However, with an explosion in drug related crime there has come a parallel growth in indiscriminate and lethal clashes. Its not just “bleeding heart liberals” who recognise that social deprivation, inequality, poor housing and racial discrimination are all part of the toxic mix that create the conditions for tragedy.
Partly because these issues have been around for so long, with local variations, we can also look to areas where there has been success in talking some of the issues. We can understand the approaches that prevent re-engagement with violent pasts and see the way in which violence reduction units succeed in keeping young men out of prison.
It’s only when we work together, across countries, where what happens in Glasgow can inform and encourage what happens in London or Birmingham or Dublin or any other city or town across Britain and Ireland. We can also recognise that it is the local church that is often the only permanent resource left in many communities. It is historically and factually correct to say that in any economic squeeze, it is always youth provision that gets cut. We are about to discover that government and local councils have choices to make that will rarely continue to support youth work. That’s why it is the local church that will be at the forefront of supporting local initiatives to address serious youth violence. This website and the resources it provides is our attempt to begin again. Supporting and encouraging local leaders to engage and support those who will otherwise be lost into a system of violence and failure. If not us then who? If not now then when?