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Combating knife crime and the role of the church

A LIFE LOST: Tanesha Melbourne was shot dead in Tottenham last week

I COULDN’T believe it when I woke up to the news last week that there had been another fatal shooting. This time a 17-year-old girl named Tanesha Melbourne who was gunned down in Tottenham, north London on April 2.

At the time of writing, Ganesha was the 48th person killed in London this year. Most of those being killed in London are black youths and ally I recall two Jamaican pastors telling me in 2002, while here in the UK, that if the church didn't help combat moral decline and the lack of father figures in black communities that youth crime would rise.

Unfortunately, that prediction has already been proven to be right. Soon after this prediction, Britain woke up to the reality of gun crime that plagued our urban communities after the shooting of four young girls on New Year’s Day in 2003.

Since then, year on year, a sizeable number of young people have been killed, often by their fellow young people. Many Christians feel helpless to stem the tide of deaths, and continually ask ‘What can the church and I and do to make a positive difference?’

It’s a great question to ask, because there is always something the Christian community can do to make a difference. Firstly, however people need to realise what the church is not.

It is not a law enforcement agency that can arrest people for breaking the law, nor is sit a political entity that can introduce laws to stem violence – neither does it exist to start community services, although it does serve the community.

The church is mandated by God to be His voice in a broken world, to share a message of hope and bring about spiritual liberation through preaching the gospel. With this fact in mind there are things churches can do to help stem youth violence.

The Christian community should constantly share God’s heart about how people should live with each other – whether it is in promoting marriage, discouraging divorce, reminding people it is preferable for children to come after marriage – not before – and encouraging parents to work together in the best interests of their children. We know that the rise in gangs is partly attributable to the youth feeling misunderstood by their families.

Secondly, churches must preach a message of hope and be confident in doing so, as well as find new ways to remind people, especially our youth, that God loves them, that He has a purpose for their life and that He can enable them to have life experiences and live a life of fulfilment, if they follow His commandments and live according to His will.

Thirdly, churches must continue to find ways to practically serve the community – which many already do. Whether it is by way of establishing much-needed social projects, adopting a charity, encouraging members to play a greater role in civic society and building links with the police, social services or schools etc, in order to combat societal ills.

Having sessions where members are taught about youth culture would not hurt either.

The church is not to blame for the youth crisis, but we have a part to play in bringing about peace in our communities and on our streets.

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