Knife crime - A Christian response

Knife crime - A Christian response

We recently prayed for the family of Fares Maatou, a 14-year-old boy stabbed to death in East London. Sadly, knife crime is a present and ongoing issue in our city. Nate has written a response.

“Bruv, I’ll stab you!” I was standing at the bottom of the escalator in a busy London tube station when I heard these words. Seconds before, I’d turned to look up the escalator to look for one of my friends and had caught a stranger’s eyes for a brief second.

As I had turned to get off the escalator, I had heard someone shouting, “what are you looking at?!” Oblivious, I had continued walking until I was set upon by this individual. I can still remember him putting his hand in his pocket. Fortunately, the man’s own friends pulled him away and I left unharmed.

Knife crime is a present reality in our city. But the portrayal of knife crime in the media and public thought is not reflective of that reality. Tony Blair once said, “We won’t stop this by pretending it isn’t young black kids doing it.”[1] But journalist Gary Younge shows that across Britain, two-thirds of knife crime victims are not black. [2] Class appears to be a more important determining factor. In London, this is slightly more nuanced as race does appear to be an important factor. So it is too simplistic to reduce knife crime to race and culture, but it does "disproportionately affect young black men." [3]

The subject of knife crime should matter to use because men and women, who are made in the image of God are harmed and killed. As Jonty reminded us as we looked at John 11, Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. His response to the reality of sin in our world is one which we should share. We should be shocked, angered, appalled, and saddened when we read of knife crime because those who die without trusting in Jesus Christ will face an eternity without him.

The reality is that only the gospel can truly speak into the area of knife crime. Watching Jermaine Jenas’ insightful documentary on knife crime was harrowing, particularly as he spoke to one individual who openly shared that he carried a knife.

“It’s big so it’s touching organs init.”

“It’s kill or be killed.”

“If I die today, a year from now the only person that is going to remember me is my Mum. I could tell you that now.”

‘What holds you back from stopping carrying a knife?’ “The same thing that is holding back millions of other youths innit. Just feeling the need to be protected.”

As he left the interview, Jenas was overcome by his lack of ability to change the situation.[3]

But the gospel speaks into this area. For those who are tempted into knife crime, it offers a hope of belonging and protection that we all crave. An identity which is not based on self but being able to rely on the God of the universe.

And for the victims and their families it can even bring forgiveness. I listened to the story of Tayo and her Mum, Sarah who lost their brother and son, Zac to knife crime.[4] They had to walk into a hospital and watch as Zac lay there with his chest open, ribs on show, as doctors worked to pump his heart and they watched him die. And yet, because of the forgiveness Jesus had shown them they could forgive.

My plea is that this blog would not be something that you just read and then move on. We are to respond and below are some ideas:

Weep – we should be saddened by the state of our world and long for change.

Educate yourself – seek to understand the situation more. Listening to this Co-Mission Revive talk and watching Jermaine Jenas’ documentary might be a good place to start.

Pray – we truly believe that prayer works so we should be praying that God works in this area. Why not commit to praying once a month that The Globe Church would be a place where people come and are saved by the gospel and turn from resorting to knife crime?

Act – I am still working this through myself, but there are ways we can practically respond. I’ve recently reached out to Operation Forgiveness, a London City Mission project which plans to train and equip Churches to reach into their communities to prevent knife crime so if you are interested, please get in touch with me. How can you be generous with your time and money in this area?

References:

[1] Ben Lindsay, We Need To Talk About Race (SPCK, 2019), 7-8.

[2] The radical lessons of a year reporting on knife crime | Knife crime | The Guardian

[3] Britain's Teenage Knife Wars | Jermaine Jenas Investigates – YouTube

[4] Knife Crime: What can we do? How can we pray? | Jason O'Shea from REVIVE 2019 - Co-Mission