Less than 100 days into the year and already 50 people - 12 of them teenagers - have been violently murdered in London, most at the hands of knife and gun crime.
This is not ok. The church is God’s vehicle for reaching the world, and we need to respond to this epidemic in the love, peace and hope of the gospel.
An increasing number of teenagers in London are carrying a knife to school, and some live in fear of being stabbed – or being told to stab someone else. Nowadays it’s not surprising to see kids as young as 11 carrying knives. Some teenagers, when asked why they carry weapons, said, ‘it’s to protect ourselves; stab first or risk getting stabbed yourself.’ And ‘once you’re caught up in this way of life, it’s hard to get out.’
Many people will look to the government for the solution. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, recently said in an interview with Radio 4, ‘We aren’t debating this in parliament. I’ve not had a phone call from the home secretary, I haven’t had a phone call from the mayor, no one’s come to visit my constituency. This is happening across London at large. I’m sick of the political football, what I want is a political consensus.’
Let’s pray this will not be true of the churches of London, and that there will be unity in how we respond.
Yes, there are government initiatives to tackle knife crime. Tougher policing, mental health support, better education, more youth activities. But there’s never enough money to make a real difference, and the problem is so complex it feels each new solution barely scratches the surface.
What our young people need, above all, is Jesus.
They need love, kindness, time and security.
They need to know they can be part of God’s family.
One of our missionaries Jason O’Shea and his wife Tayo reach out to young people through their schools work as a part of their ministry in Lewisham. Seven years ago, Tayo’s younger brother was stabbed to death at the age of 15. Since then, she and her mum Sarah have gone into prisons sharing their story, looking at the ripple effects of crime and forgiveness, and along with Jason they go into schools to deliver a knife crime and forgiveness course.
‘For the last year we have been going into schools delivering a course, Operation Forgiveness, where we share our story, with powerful responses. We are hosting an event on Saturday 28 April, 3pm at Ecclesia Church in Lewisham, this time targeting youth who attend churches, and their friends. Forgiveness comes from God, so talking about it opens doors to the gospel in many ways. Young people put up barriers and bravado, but they hear a powerful story like this and those barriers come down and they can then hear the gospel.’
There are only 100 places at this event, which include the adult youth leaders. For more information or to book a place contact Tayo.OShea@lcm.org.uk.
HOW CAN THE CHURCH IN LONDON RESPOND IN PRAYER?
- Pray for the gospel of peace to bring reconciliation to our streets, and for churches/Christians to be on the streets ministering the gospel.
- Pray that the violence won’t escalate even further across the city; pray against further retaliation.
- Pray for the parents and families who are facing trauma and grief.
- Pray that churches will come together to cry out to the Lord and respond by looking at how we approach our youth ministry.
- For Sarah, Tayo and Jason and other believers, especially parents, who have lost loved ones to be ministers of reconciliation proclaiming love and forgiveness.