London Christians unite in peace initative to tackle gang culture

By staff writers
4 Sep 2007

Christians across all London's 33 boroughs, including many from the Black Majority Churches, are coming together for a Week of Peace which will look at practical community-based methods for reducing violence throughout the capital.

The initiative has a particular focus on young people. Over the past eighteen months the media has highlighted growing concern about gang culture and the use of both guns and knives in violent confrontations.

Police statistics indicate that the number of fatalities has reduced slightly over the past three years, but community activists say that general levels of aggression have increased.

Recently history was made as some of the youngest children ever arraigned on manslaughter charges convicted at the Old Bailey of pelting Ernest Norton with stones. He subsequently had a heart attack and died.

Inner city churches have been involved in working against gang culture for some time, in cooperation with community and secular agencies.

The London Week of Peace itself really began to make a substantial impact three years ago in the Borough of Southwark and five other local administrative districts.

Pastor Nims Obunge, founder of The Peace Alliance and the annual London Week Of Peace, today urged church members and others to "get involved... and make a difference".

Nims said declared: “Peace is everybody’s business. We as a community must encourage and engage [more effectively] with youth in order to make a stand against violence”.

The origins of the Week go back to September 2001 and the desire to respond to local community safety issues. Thousands of local residents kick started it by participating in a peace walk, a community bridges concert, and prayer vigils around crime hotspots.

More recently Black Churches, in particular, have supported and developed the 'Street Pastors' scheme, which has put streetwise operatives into neighbourhoods to make direct pastoral contact with young people involved in crime.

In the Midlands, police have been cooperating with churches keen to be involved in crime-reduction community initiatives and prayer circles.

The moves have been met with scepticism by some who are distrustful of religious influence, but the police argue that it is part of an all-inclusive attempt to engage people from the widest range of cultures and outlooks.

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