Following the successful Standing Together rally against knife crime and youth violence held on 6 April 2019, church leaders, community workers and Christian charities are planning to meet on Wednesday 8 May, 2019 to discuss how to build on the momentum created and devise new strategies to combat this social issue.
The organisers of Standing Together are hopeful that the meeting scheduled for church leaders on 8 May will take forward the momentum developed on 6 April in ways that provide tangible responses to address youth violence.
Almost 1000 Christians attended the Rally which was held in Trafalgar Square and organised by the Ascension Trust, alongside the Anglican Diocese of Southwark, London City Mission and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI).
The crowd listened to prayers of lament and repentance, as well as prayers for peace and young people. They also heard stories from parents whose children had been victims of knife crime and exhortations for Christians to play an active role in their communities.
Rev Les Isaac, founder of Street Pastors and CEO of the Ascension Trust told the large crowd, “God does not want spectators in his church. All of us are challenged to put our hands to the plough and do something. We need to volunteer. We need to give our time, skill, energy, and intellect free of charge to our community.”
Other contributors to the rally include The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally who led the prayer of lament along with Graham Miller of London City Mission and Bishop Tedroy Powell, National Presiding Bishop of the Church of God of Prophecy, Steve Clifford, General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance, Richard Reddie of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun.
Youth worker Hannah Bourazza talked about her teenage son Nathaniel who was fatally stabbed in 2012. She said, “Nathaniel’s murder six and a half years ago has sometimes been the most painful journey, but my faith has kept me going, my faith has kept me strong.” She entreated the crowd to support young people. “We have to help them navigate their lives.”
There were also testimonies from the Brown family whose son Russell was stabbed to death in 2016. His father encouraged people to be loving. “Let’s show our youth in the community we love and respect them. In return they will love and respect us.
And Sophie Linden, the representative for the Mayor of London shared, “There are too many mothers and fathers weeping because their sons have been murdered. We will do everything we can in our power so we can tackle this violence we are seeing.”
Looking forward to the meeting of church leaders next week, Rev Isaac stated: “It’s our hope that on 8 May, when Christian leaders from across London meet together we will be able to announce some practical strategies churches will implement to tackle knife crime and youth violence.”
Graham Miller, of London City Mission hopes that the meeting will give church leaders renewed impetus of bringing hope and the gospel to all of London.
Richard Reddie, Director of Justice and Inclusion at Churches Together in Britain and Ireland said: ‘The Standing Together Rally on 6 April was a fantastic event that told the country that the Church was serious about addressing violent crime. However, the real work starts now, and it involves getting all the churches, para-church groups and Christian organisations to utilise their resources, skills, ideas and expertise in a joint effort to tackle serious youth violence. This will not be easy, but as people of faith, we must rely on the Lord’s guidance and wisdom to let this happen.”
Revd Canon Dr Rosemarie Mallett of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark commented: ‘By our deeds they will know us’. Prayer is our foundation in all things but as leaders within our various Christian denominations we must also turn our words into tangible action and show the love of God to our young people, their families and all our communities.”