BBC Radio 4:Rev Dr Rob Marshall - 07/04/2018


Good Morning

“Frankly, I’m sick of the political football”, so said Tottenham MP David Lammy on this programme this week. “What I want is political consensus”. The killings and the stabbings have to end.

Yesterday , across BBC news output, local people in East London were asked about what’s happening in the heart of their communities: one minute it’s on the news and the next minute it’s across the street, they said. And, yes, they have children. And they, too, are very very worried.

The night before last, a local group calling itself Guiding a New Generation organised an impromptu protest against the London violence. Ironically, that same evening, and within the space of 90 minutes, a further six teenagers were stabbed and there’s been more since then.

At the rally, one protestor said: “ I want to say to them that this is not the life.” That these young people are “being sold a false narrative – and we are here to change that narrative for them.”

The big question is how do we change it: that false narrative of music, drugs, fast cars and money that doesn’t add up? How do we go about telling them the truth?

In my last job, in Newham [East London] there was, to be sure, sometimes an edge to living in a community where gangs existed and the threat of violence was just around the corner – but it was hardly ever talked about or witnessed. Suddenly it seems different for complex reasons still to be understood. And with it comes fear. Many innocent families with kids, full of potential, are caught up in a mindless cycle of terribleness.

A lot of work has been done by theologians over many decades on how to keep hope – or good news – alive in cities when they experiences times of violence and suffering. And it’s clear, going all the way back to the Church of England’s landmark Faith in the City Report in the 1980’s, that giving people hope in the midst of challenges posed by heavily populated urban areas means convincing them that they have a place in and a contribution to make to the good of society.

One mother said yesterday that Londoners, at this particular time, needed to find love. It reminded me of the extraordinary response to the Arena bomb which culminated in One Love Manchester. That traumatic event prompted a solidarity of purpose and resolve which still reverberates.

These killings now need to provoke something similar - to acknowledge the trauma and galvanise everyone to a consensus of our responsibility to each other, sharing a common purpose to really turn things around. No one agency or institution can achieve this alone. The next move is CRItical.

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