Black Christians attack Blair over gang culture

By staff writers
April 13, 2007

Black Christian leaders have attacked UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying that his comments this week about Black communities did not recognise the work these communities - and especially Black Churches - are doing to tackle criminal gangs.

The Prime Minister, speaking in Cardiff, said Britain's Black communities must speak out against gang culture. He also caused controversy by claiming that a spate of knife and gun murders in London was being caused by a distinctive section of the black community.

But members of the Black Christian Leaders' Forum have said Black communities are already speaking and taking action.

Bishop Joe Aldred, the Secretary for Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs for Churches Together in England, said: "I'm not sure where the Prime Minister has been, or who he's been talking to, if he thinks Black communities have not been denouncing the gangs and gang activity.

"Black communities, particularly the Black Christian communities, have not only been denouncing this evil, but have been hard at work, taking action to try to find solutions. There are now several church-led initiatives around the country working with young people and parents.

"What is needed is not further legislation, when what we're dealing with are very young people who will simply be further criminalised.

"What we need is better support for those initiatives working with young people, parents, schools, and community groups, to help to give - particularly to our young boys - some sense of a better code of behaviour, aspiration, and a sense of belonging."

The Rev Katei Kirby, Chief Executive of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, said the Prime Minister highlighted an issue which is of continuing concern, not just to Black communities but to wider society.

"It is unfortunate however, that the Prime Minister failed to recognise the proactive and measurable contribution of Black Christian communities in tackling these issues," she said.

"Through inter-church and community initiatives such as Street Pastors and Black Boys Can, and through the range of voluntary youth programmes run by Black-majority churches across the country, the challenge to young people to value their lives and the lives of others is a continuing core message."

She added that while local authorities have been reducing their investment in activities for young people, Black churches have maintained, or increased, the resources committed to youth work development.

"It would be more helpful if while highlighting the issue, that we, along with the Government, recognise the range of issues that contribute to the current situation," she said.

"Youth work must become a key part of the Government's resourcing agenda, not with a 'project' or short term mentality, but as a long-term investment for citizenship.

"With the Government’s resources, the Church's commitment and the community’s support, we can continue to be part of this investment."

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