I hate that our nation is becoming increasingly immune to the horrific statistics around knife crime and youth violence. Last year in England and Wales there were 40,829 recorded offences involving knives or sharp objects. And we can only imagine how many more went unrecorded.
Every few days seems to bring another heartbreaking story. As those working alongside the emerging generation we must unite in prayer to contend for these young lives being tragically snatched away.
This week we heard that rising knife crime could be linked to budget cuts in youth services. Some of us know all too well that the average council has reduced spending on services such as social clubs and youth workers by 40 per cent. And some parts of the country (Wolverhampton and Westminster) have seen their funding cut by 91 per cent over the past three years.
A recent report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime found that the areas hit hardest by these cuts were among those with the greatest surges in violence.
The government said there was a "range of factors" driving the increase in knife crime, which it called “complex". But Labour MP Sarah Jones, who chairs the committee, said: “We cannot hope to turn around the knife crime epidemic if we don’t invest in our young people.”
I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but we must prioritise investing in our young people. And I’m not just talking about finances. As rapper Guvna B said in a recent panel discussion around knife crime at the HTB leadership conference, we need to remind young people: “You don’t have to just be a name on a register. You have a purpose."
Of course we need to tackle some of the underlying issues of injustice, poverty and fear. But we must also urge our congregations to draw alongside the young people in our communities to show them there is a better story. Our young people desperately need to know that they are not alone and that there is hope in the midst of the brokenness.
Guvna shared his experience of growing up on a council estate in East London. He spoke about his tight-knit community and the fact that he would be told off or stopped from doing something dangerous by older members of the estate who knew his mum. Guvna challenged those listening to aim for creating community like that - where we have earned the authority to speak into young people’s lives.
Guvna appeared on the panel alongside Eleanor Smith MP, Rev Steve Burston and Jo Rice. Eleanor spoke from her own experience within her Wolverhampton South West constituency where she is working alongside young people to try and create a safer community. Former police detective Steve now pastors a church plant in Crawley, which runs the Bridge, a cafe partnering with probation services and the police to facilitate discussions with those on probation. Jo is the managing director of the charity Resurgo and founder of their Spear programme, which helps young people (many of whom have been involved in the criminal justice system) into work or education.
People like this give me hope that all is not lost. I’m so thankful for their tireless commitment to fight for a better world for the young people they’re working alongside.
People like this also challenge me to do more. And I want to throw the same challenge out to you. What are you doing to actively create community where you are? How are you investing in the young people in your area? How are you reminding them that they are not forgotten (Isaiah 49)?
At Premier we believe one of the most powerful things we can do for our young people is pray. You can join us in praying specifically against youth violence.