The Baptist Union of Great Britain is joining forces with the Ascension Trust, the group behind the Street Pastors initiative for a second second 'Bite the Bullet' conference on tackling youth gang violence.
The one-day event will take place at Westbury Avenue Baptist Church in North London on Saturday 4 July 2009. The previous gathering had been in Brixton, South London.
Confirmed speakers this year are to include criminologist and gang culture expert Professor John Pitts, who is also a practicing GP. Former gang members will also will be sharing their experiences and advising on how to develop effective strategies.
Community and church groups will take part in workshops designed to help adults find out about how children and young people get involved in knife and gun crime. Support and on-scene response will also be discussed.
Young people will be contributing to the day themselves, and helping to lay on a concert.
As part of the preparation, young Christians from different denominations will be invited to a meeting on 28 March in Peckham to discuss ways in which they and their peers can help reduce the levels of gang activity and violent crime. Their conversations will shape the content of Bite the Bullet 2009.
Recent statistics released by the Home Office showed that knife attacks in 2007-8 were as high as 270, the highest since records began in 1977.
Wale Hudson-Roberts, Racial Justice Adviser at the Baptist Union of Great Britain, says this shows how critical it is for churches and local communities to continue to grapple with the issue.
He explained: “Many young people in different parts of our country are under pressure to join a gang. For some youngsters, gangs are family. Young people find support networks and deep bonds of friendship, stuff that they ought to find at home. If families and churches do not get to grips with what is happening on our streets, gang culture is set to rise along with its associated crime."
"Bite the Bullet will not provide the answers to these concerns but it certainly will get people thinking about the issues,” said Hudson-Roberts.
Meanwhile, Les Isaac, founder of Street Pastors, who make direct interventions and involve themselves in preventative action in communities, says he believes young people can play a key role in tackling knife and gun crime problems.
“If we are to prevent young people from getting involved in gangs and violent crime, we need to understand the pressures they are under and the circumstances they face," he commented.
Isaac added: "Giving young people the opportunity to speak out on the realities of violent crime and search for solutions is not only good for them but also allows other sections of the church and community to be informed about the problem and to become actively involved in this challenge that faces our society.”