LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Thousands of Christians are scheduled to hold a London rally against knife crime, and “speaking up for young people today, for their generosity and sense of justice,” according to the Archbishop of Westminster.
Knife crime has shown a two-thirds increase in the UK since 2014, and 20 percent since 2017, with around 40,000 knife crime offences in the country in 2018.
“We will be speaking out against knife crime. We will be lamenting with all who have lost loved ones or suffering injuries on our streets at this time,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
The Standing Together public rally was scheduled to take place in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, and is sponsored by Ascension Trust, an inter-denominational organization that has provided “weapons bins” across London and other areas of England that have helped removed thousands of guns and knives from the streets.
The organization said the rally is standing together with families and communities impacted by violent crime, working against violent crime, finding effective solutions to combat violent crime, and supporting all who have been affected by violent crime.
“Like most of the country, Britain’s Christian community have been greatly concerned and impacted by the knife crime and youth violence that is becoming a common occurrence in London and urban areas. Just last month five people got stabbed in the course of 24 hours,” said Rev. Les Isaac, the CEO of Ascension Trust. “The Church wants to send a strong message which demonstrates that we are concerned about this issue, that we are here to support victims, and that we want to continue playing a role of being part of the solution.”
After the spate of knife violence in the capital in early March, the Metropolitan Police conducted thousands of stops and searches.
“We had arranged for more officers from our Violent Crime Taskforce to be on duty and we have extended their shifts to raise our visibility across London. These officers are operating across London in both uniform and plain clothes. Officers from the homicide teams are working around the clock to bring justice to families and protect communities,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty.
“Whilst enforcement of the law is an important part of our activity in London, we are undertaking an enormous amount of work within schools and across the communities to try and prevent young people from getting involved in violence,” he continued. “We know that there is still a significant amount of work to do in order to rid the Capital of violence and we absolutely cannot solve this problem alone. The police, our partners and the public must continue to work together to prevent young lives being lost.”
Bob Fyffe, the general secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland said the recent spike in youth-related violent crime “has rightly gained media and political attention.”
“However, we must recognize that these appalling activities have been ruining lives for decades, and this ground-breaking day of prayer and action allows our numerous member churches to stand alongside all those affected by violent crime,” he said.
Cecilia Taylor-Camara, a policy advisor for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said knife crime is ”symptomatic of something that is happening in society.”
“Our societies are breaking apart: How do we bring them back together?” she said.
“There has been a spike in knife crime and the ages of the people involved are getting younger…this has been going on for a very long time, but the figures are alarming,” Taylor-Camara told Crux.
She said “young people are looking for a sense of belonging,” but are joining groups that are not “the most forward-looking.”
“In the absence of having something to keep young people occupied they will always find an alternative. Some of these gaps are being filled, but they are being filled by the wrong people,” she continued.
Saturday’s rally is also a meeting point for Church groups to offer something better.
“They have youth workers. Youth workers can mentor young people. They have health workers. They have teachers. They have people you can talk to,” Taylor-Camara said.
Fyffe said his organization is also encouraging churches “to use this day to either begin their engagement, or redouble their efforts, in combating serious youth violence.”
“We know that our churches have so much to offer in terms of prayer, expertise, volunteers and resources such as buildings and equipment, and this event is a perfect occasion to put their faith in action,” he said.