Brothers United Against Knife Crime
17th December 2018
Knife Crime and Youth Violence is fast becoming an alarmingly serious issue throughout the UK. According to research conducted by The Guardian’s award winning Beyond the Blade journalistic investigations into the issue, 39 children and teenagers were killed by a knife in the UK last year. A year later, there has been a huge surge in the amount of deaths, with approximately 120 falling victim to knife crime with a large majority of those being young people.
Following on from a march around Hackney along with representatives from the council and all faith groups as well as a family fun day for the community, the Hackney Seventh-Day Adventist Church held an open forum (on Saturday 8th December 2018) which addressed the issue of knife crime and youth violence in Hackney. The guest speakers were all individuals known to have worked in the community with young people and their families in challenging the issue in a productive and positive way.
The forum began with a video screening of The Father, written and produced by Gary Younge (The Guardian’s Editor-at-large and senior reporter on their award winning Beyond the Blade series on Knife Crime). The 4 minute clip is a real life depiction of a father speaking on the loss of his son through knife crime. In the final pivotal scene, the father (performed by Gbolahan Obisean) reflecting on the death of his son says: “I just think why him. He never did anything. Wrong place, wrong time. That’s it. But when the wrong place is between school and his mum’s house and the time is 4pm, you’re thinking, when is the right time, where is the right place?”
The video, which visibly touched many of the audience, was followed by a moving testimony from Dr Mark Prince, who set up The Kiyan Foundation in memory of his son whom he lost to knife crime in 2006. An author and former boxing champion, Mark Prince candidly recounted the emotions he felt upon realizing he was losing his son. “I never dreamt that I would have to watch my first son die in the hospital after being stabbed in the heart. It’s something you never think will happen to you and there’s not a day that goes by that I can ever forget him.” Mark Prince said he was only able to get through this most painful experience through surrendering to God. “I didn’t believe I could ever get through this but God had my back. He gave me peace and taught me how to forgive and to share my story with others to let them know that they are Kings and Queens, able to achieve anything and that their lives are of worth and value in the sight of God.”
Youth Mentor, Courtney Brown, spoke of his work with young people in Hackney schools, where he comes across many who all are just crying out to be listened to and valued. Founder of Father2Father – an organization that provides support, training and development to fathers, men and adolescent boys, Courtney shared what drives him to do the work that he does in the community: “After giving my life to Christ 4 years ago, I realized that I could not just sit in the pews and not offer an helping hand to those suffering in my community. Throughout life we go through a period of pain, process, position, power and purpose but ultimately the answer to all life’s problems is through maintaining a life of prayer and commitment to God.”
Inspirational spoken word performer and playwright, Jermaine Wong, had the attention of the young people in the audience during his poetic performance which called them to rise up, know who they are and to follow in the legacy paved for them from those gone on before. Founder of Final Call Productions – a Christian theatre company that seeks to inspire, engage, encourage and inform its audiences through drama, theatre, film and poetry, Jermaine spoke of the need to affirm our young people and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. He said: “We must tell our young people that they can be doctors, lawyers, business owners and that their lives are of worth and value to God and the community to which they belong.”
Deji Adeoshun, Youth Leadership Programme Manager at Hackney Council Voluntary Service shared some harrowing statistics regarding violence and knife crime in the borough. He said: “We have lost 9 individuals in Hackney through acts of violence including knife crime. Other statistics highlight that 70% of young black men have been excluded from school while 50% are unemployed.” Deji who is responsible for projects such as Moving on Up which works with young men to help them gain employment and reengagement in education believes the church has a role to play in bringing hope to those in the community feeling hopeless. “It’s time for the church to come out of their comfort zones and reach out to those who need a word of cheer and hope as well as practical help which the church can offer.
Boys2Men Ministries Founder, Paul Frempong, highlighted that Seventh-Day Adventists were not immune to the issue having lost 3 of our members to acts of violence including knife crime. Like Deji, Paul called the church to be missionaries for Christ. “The Church are called to be salt of the earth and a light to those in darkness – this can only happen when the church step out into the community, as Jesus did, thereby making a difference in society.” Paul then added: We must affirm our young people and from an early age remind them of their greatness in God.”The speakers then took part in a Q&A Session with the audience which concluded a highly informative and inspirational forum, offering hope to those personally affected by the issue with the reminder that God is still in control of world affairs and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
[Darell J Philip]