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OPINION: Most Camden residents will be unaware of the knife crime reality

Writing in the New Journal, THE RT. REVD. ROB WICKHAM, THE BISHOP OF EDMONTON says everybody will need to play a role in ending the violence

26 September, 2019 — By The Rt. Revd. Rob Wickham

On Friday many deeply concerned residents of Camden gathered at St Mary’s Primrose Hill to reflect.

We were united by our concern for the increasing levels of youth violence experienced in the borough.

In the last few weeks we have seen extraordinary numbers of young people being critically injured or fatally wounded, so we gathered to recognise that there is something seriously wrong.

The very woundedness, fragility and brokenness of our community has been laid bare, and many in our borough sense rising levels of anxiety, bewilderment and grief.

The names of 16 young people were read out, while candles were lit as a mark of respect for each of their lives. Those gathered were given the opportunity to light candles, write in the condolence book, and think, in the silence, about their own contribution towards the fabric of society.

Youth workers, councillors, teachers, clergy, medical staff all gathered in solidarity with the families whose loved ones had died prematurely, and the sense of breaking hearts was palpable. In the silence, a general feeling of “how long, O Lord” became the mantra.

We have had enough. Where is the justice in this mess? But what can we do? It seems that a great number of people care, yet are impotent, silenced, in how we might respond. Let’s be honest, most are not police, youth workers or teachers.

Most Camden residents cannot affect the drugs market which plays a significant part in the grooming of young lives into abusive relationships, and most will not know the families concerned who now grieve, personally.

Most Camden residents will be unaware of the young people being forced to carry knives for their own safety, or who carry drugs packages for someone else.

Most Camden residents will be blissfully unaware that they cross a street and enter into someone else’s patch, where for a few, this would have serious consequences.

Most Camden residents go about their daily business, knowing that problems exist, yet unable to help.

Well what could they do?

There is the well-known African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Painfully, a youth worker recently shared with the me the chilling addition, that if rejected, the same child will burn the village just to feel its warmth.

So, if it does take the whole of Camden to raise our children, then surely it is our responsibility to get stuck in. This issue that haunts us requires a collective response.

I wear a bishop’s cross which has been made from knives from a knife bin that we installed in Hackney, where I served as rector.

The moulded knives around my neck remind me of the importance of building relationships.

For Christians, the cross is a symbol of reconciliation, a clear demonstration of God’s love for creation, for you and for me.

I am appalled how St Peter, when aggravated as Jesus was arrested, takes out a knife and stabs one of those who were arresting Jesus.

I am disgusted by the brutal and barbaric murder that Jesus undergoes through the crucifixion.

Yet what amazes me is the gift of peace in the resurrection. Jesus, when resurrected, does not speak of retribution, hatred, anger and fear, but he speaks of love and peace.

He preaches about a transformed society, where life is a gift, and all people are precious. We are all hurting as a result of the increased levels of violence in Camden.

But this is not just the responsibility of the police, the council or the government. This is all of our responsibility to be glimmers of light and peace in our encounters and our conversations, especially among young people.

We must speak truth about the impact of a decline in the numbers of police officers and youth workers.

We must speak truth about the impact of adverse childhood experiences.

We must speak truth about the desperate need for mentoring and support among our young people.

We must also speak truth about the chronic impact that illegal drugs make in society, and not condone the different attitudes towards drugs that is crystallised between Eton and the Estate.

We each have a part to play as we seek to build community and civil society. We each have encounters where we choose to be glimmers of light or not with those whom we meet.

We all choose how we use time either just for ourselves of for supporting others around. We are far from being impotent, choices are there, we just need to open our eyes and hearts.

So, may I suggest that if we want to see change in Camden, it starts close to home.

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