Church divisions hamper action on criminalized black youth

By staff writers
June 18, 2007

Divisions between Black Majority congregations and the historic Christian churches in Britain are hindering practical efforts to tackle the issues surrounding young black people's over representation in the criminal justice system says Faith Ayoola, director of Churches' Criminal Justice Forum.

"A house divided against itself can not stand", she declared today, adopting a well-known biblical allusion.

Ms Ayoola went on: "It is time to put aside the differences and grievances [within the churches] and come together to share resources and expertise and tackle the problem together."

Churches' Criminal Justice Forum, which brings together Christians from different traditions and is a body in association with the official ecumenical instruments in Britain and Ireland, points out that the government is looking to the community, churches and voluntary organizations to help come up with some practical solutions to the challenge of black people in custody.

It says that there are many possible solutions that could be put forward to the government, but adds: "[This] should not be seen as 'a Black community problem' or 'a Black Majority Church task' to tackle; but we should all join forces and tackle the issues together."

As the new director of the Churches' Criminal Justice Forum, having been in post for six months, Faith Ayoola says: "I am now beginning to make some initial contacts with Black majority churches on the issue. The Churches Criminal Justice Forum is also looking to invite senior Pastors of Black Majority Churches to join [our] executive committee - to ensure that it is representative of all communities and churches."

A significant number of Black Majority congregations trace their history to the lack of welcome experienced by previous generations of new arrivers among what are sometimes called "the mainstream churches".

Black church advocates often point out that the issue is one of redefining what is "mainstream", as well as developing better working practices, making the biblical case for social justice, and reforging relationships on the basis of a reconition of what has gone wrong in the past - as well as the opportunities of the future.

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