On Monday night this week (16th April), one of my colleagues who lives in Leytonstone and I took part in the prayer walk through the area, to remember the tragic and violent death of Paul Erhahon. I am heartbroken by this, and by the many other needleess and violent deaths of young people that have occurred in London recently. My thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and communities of all those who have died or been hurt.
The walk was organised by Churches Together, but included people of all faiths, colours and cultures, as the community came together to show they want to stand together against a culture of violence that seems to be growing.
Lives have been torn apart. We cannot sit back and do nothing. It is vital that churches now rise to the call of being at the forefront of engaging with young people. There are churches in every community in the UK, and they are in an ideal position to initiate and lead work with our young people and their families. Thousands of Christians and people of faith across the country are already working compassionately and inclusively, at the heart of their communities, in this way, for instance with groups such as Street Pastors, the Peace Alliance, and Bringing Hope in Birmingham, to name only a very few excellent examples.
I want to encourage more churches to work together to put more resources, time and effort into helping the young people around them. I also want to call on statutory agencies to recognise the huge potential that churches hold for bringing positive change, and to continue supporting and extending their work with them.
In Leytonstone in particular there is a pressing need for a safe place for young people. Leytonstone United Free Church is currently leading in trying to set up such a project, and is due to meet with the local council and statutory youth services soon to try to take this forward.
The answers to these problems lie within our communities, and only be working together can we solve them.
I’d love to hear what you think.