Amid a rise in serious youth violence, whose causes governments had failed to understand, the Church must “be the Samaritan and not the Pharisee”, the General Synod heard on Saturday.
Members unanimously backed proposals for action, asking for dioceses to provide training for church leaders in supporting those affected by the violence, including gun and knife crime.
Moving the motion, Canon Rosemarie Mallett, Vicar of Angell Town, in Brixton, described how her 12 years in the parish had been “bookended and punctuated by deaths of young people, their lives steeped in tragedy before ending tragically”.
“I have conducted the funerals of too many young people, and I prefer to be there supporting the living rather than presiding over the dead,” she said.
The rise in youth violence was in part due to the failure of successive governments to understand its causes, she argued: “These include the pernicious nature of poverty and trauma, and risk factors like school exclusion and adverse child experiences, along with public-sector disinvestment nationally and locally.”
Echoing later speeches, she said that many of the victims and perpetrators of violence had been “shaped by trauma”. They were also more likely to be either permanently excluded from school or sent to pupil-referral units, which could be used as “recruiting grounds” by gangs.
The problem was spreading outside our cities, with “middle-class drug-taking fuelling the rise of County Lines drug trafficking”. One young man in her parish had been moved for safety to Portsmouth. He was shot dead not long after. Another young man who was killed at the age of 15 had been confirmed a year earlier.
The response of the Church needed to shift from reactive to proactive; it must not let the potential for action go. “We must be the Samaritan and not the Pharisee.”
Churches could be “places of safety” (Comment, 17 August 2018) and, in parishes where families of perpetrators and victims lived side by side, “a place not only of pastoral care for individuals, but also forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation with each other and with God”.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, traced the roots of the crisis to “recreational drug-taking in our more affluent areas”. She quoted a youth worker from the charity XLP who had said: “It takes a village to raise a child, but the same village can also kill a child. A young person can burn the village down to feel its warmth.”
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Source: Christian Today