Britain’s capital has been awash in recent months with reports of violent deaths. It has now outstripped New York as a place of violent homicide.
Ten years ago, this writer’s first article for Evangelical Times (September 2008) was a reflection on the terrible knife crimes that rocked London in 2008. At the time, I reflected on the fears that teenagers in my church youth group had expressed to me every time they heard another teenager was stabbed, shot or beaten to death.
Soaring crime figures
That was in 2008. And now in 2018 it is reported that London has surpassed New York for the number of violent deaths. Speaking to Channel 4 News on 6 April, Police Commissioner Cressida Dick acknowledged there were too many young people dying in the capital and said the police were working to stop it.
But, since 2009, the number of police out on the streets of England and Wales has fallen by 20,000, according to Home Office figures. As of 7 April, there have been 35 fatal stabbings in the capital. Add to this the fatal shootings and bludgeoning, and there have been 52 deaths in the space of 100 days.
Moreover, there have been hundreds more non-fatal stabbings and shootings during the first quarter of 2018 — and all the signs are there will be considerably more by the time this article is published.
Last year, one young believer at my church said a school friend of her younger brother had been killed in the road a few doors down, and her mother was supporting and comforting the family. The victim had been entirely innocent — just walking home from school — and was jumped on by armed men.
The love and support that our church member showed to the family in their time of grief was immensely valuable. It is important for Christians to reach out to those in the community who are grieving.
Young people are dying. They are being stabbed at school, and in broad daylight going about normal youth activities, such as getting a milkshake with friends or walking home.
We need to encourage teenagers and their parents to take part in youth groups and outreach events at our churches. We can even address these things in talks: speak with young people about knife crime, about the dangers of carrying weapons. ‘He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword’.
We should pray for youth leaders and young people. We need more men too to step up into youth work, especially those from minority backgrounds. Too often, boys, in particular, fall away from church activities when they reach 14 or 15, if they have not committed their life to Christ by then. Quite a number of these seem fatherless and, we fear, can easily be led astray by strong, older ‘father-figures’.
We need father-figures and mentors in churches. We need strong, straight-talking preaching in our pulpits. Christians need to give generous and loving support within our communities.
The police can prosecute and patrol, but the churches of Jesus Christ have a life-changing message to bring. Only Christ can stop crimes before they start. So please, let’s get serious about spreading and living his Word.