Churches urged to tackle knife crime during Lent

CHURCHES TOGETHER in England (CTE) has renewed its call for churches to help tackle knife crime.

Their action plan, which was first published 10 years ago,recommended that churches tackle knife crime by providing opportunities for young people. Their 10-point plan calls on churches to give young people responsibility and leadership roles within the church.

They are recommending that Government, police, churches and communities should work together to help bring about a society in which young people feel and are safe.

The Christian agency is calling on churches to dedicate all or a portion of every service during Lent to raise awareness, engage with young people, practitioners, families, communities and others to address these issues prayerfully, theologically and practically.

There were 40,147 offences in the 12 months ending in March 2018, a 16 per cent increase on the previous year and the highest number since 2011, the earliest point for which comparable data is available.

CTE originally published its call in ‘Who is my neighbour – a church response to social disorder linked to gangs, drugs, guns and knives’, by Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, Dr Sophie Hebden and Dr Keith Hebden a decade ago.

Dr R David Muir said:”Knife crime is a national emergency. Like all national emergencies, we must treat it with the urgency and resources it deserves to protect young people, families and communities.”

The organisation is calling on churches to providing training for youth leaders and young people on the issues around guns, drugs, knives and gangs, and focus youth work on developing young people’s skills and confidence through serving the community and providing an environment where they can find a sense of worth that families and schools may not be able to provide.

CTE is also recommending that churches hold listening events where they hear from young people and/or members of the community directly and host events to promote peace and integration, such as community barbeques, peace concerts, visits and exchanges with other communities.

The interdenominational group is calling on churches to have a prayer strategy attached to voluntary groups and businesses in the community, asking them regularly what they would like them to pray and ensure there are safeguarding policies in place so that both church and gang members are protected in case of difficult disclosures.

Church Army CEO Mark Russell said it is important to ‘create positive alternative communities for young people to belong to’.

The Rev Dr David Cornick, General Secretary of Churches Together in England, commented: “This report reaffirms our belief that the Christian Church is a sign of God’s love for our world. It emphasises the unique value of each young person’s life, and seeks to inspire the churches to reach out to young people in inner cities caught up in social disorder, as an act of good neighbourliness.”

The report also recommendsthat the Governmentshould encourage and empower local community members to tackle the problems themselves, in partnership with professional organisations and the police, and provide support training for church and volunteer organisations working with young people who use drugs, guns and knives.

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