At Diocesan Synod in March, members adopted a three-part motion of prayer, practical action and partnership working in response to the increase in knife crime around the Diocese.
We can all pray regularly for the victims, perpetrators, families and communities directly and indirectly affected by knife crime. Our next edition of Praying Together will include opportunities to pray collectively about the issue. You are welcome to submit your own prayer on this issue that can go into further editions.
Birmingham Cathedral will be creating a focus for prayer in the Cathedral to complement the Knife Angel sculpture (see below). Churches could also provide a space for collective prayer about knife crime, perhaps as part of a special service focussed on the issue.
Birmingham City Council and WM Police are piloting a programme of providing stab kits in the city centre. Churches could explore with local police and other community organisations the possibility of buying a kit and the best location for it to be kept. However, there are a number of quality and training issues surrounding the purchase and use of stab kits, however, so please contact Fred to discuss for the time being.
Talking to Young People
It is clear that fear of violence is a significant issue for many young people so opening up conversations with them about their knowledge, experience and anxieties is important. Churches can develop open and supportive conversations with young people with whom they are already connected to explore their experience, knowledge and views. Have a look at WM Police’s Life Not Knife campaign for more on talking to young people about knife crime.
In partnership with Christian youth workers across the Diocese, Thrive Together Birmingham are supporting the development of a network of churches and Christian led projects in neighbourhoods across the Diocese who provide a safe space for young people to gather where they can feel welcome, connect, participate and build positive relationships.If your church is interested in hosting a Safe Space, or finding out more, contact Steve Hirst at email@example.com.
The Knife Angel
A sculpture of an angel made out of 100,000 surrendered knives is currently in Victoria Square, before heading to Wolverhampton around mid June.Churches could bring groups to visit the statue and reflect on the issue. A church or a group of churches could organise a vigil or something similar around the Knife Angel, which should be around for another week. A vigil was held at the Knife Angel for Jordan Moazami on 28th May; attended by hundreds of young people.
Knife Crime Services
Kings Norton Team are proposing that churches host services across the Diocese entitled ‘Lives Not Knives’ as a demonstration of a unified response. Services could:
- Raise awareness of the issue
- Offer space for collective prayer
- Create opportunity to the local experience of young people
- Thinking about challenging the causes
- Discerning community action
The Kings Norton team are offering to prepare resources for services, which we will circulate when finalised.
Beating Knives event
The Red Letter Christian movement will host an activity in Victoria Square on 22nd June, where a blacksmith will be melting surrendered knives into objects of hope. Community justice activist and campaigner Shane Claiborne will be there as part of a weekend of activity which includes speaking at Gas Street on Sunday 23rd June. You can book free tickets for the event here.
We can inspire and encourage one another by sharing stories about things we’ve done in response to violent crime. If you’re organising a vigil, setting up a Safe Space, holding a special service around knife crime - or any other activity, please do get in touch so that we can share ideas and encouragement to others.
Fred Rattley (Community Regeneration) and Pauline Weaver (Kings Norton Team) have been attending meetings with councillors and officers from Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Police, health professionals, youth workers, and individuals from voluntary and faith sectors engaged directly with young people.
Birmingham Community Safety Partnership are working with West Midlands Police and other partners to address knife violence; with a particular concern about fear and vulnerability in young people, leading them to carry knives for protection rather than violent intent.
West Midlands Police have secured additional funding for a two year programme called ‘Project Guardian’ to tackle violent crime. Project Guardian has 4 strands, one of which is Social Capital. We were advised to wait for the appointment of the Social Capital Lead as that is where the Church’s activity will primarily fit.
Fred and Pauline will continue to explore potential for collaboration across the city, making sure that this is ecumenical. There appears to be a disappointing lack of a strategic and collaborative response in the short, medium or long term at present, but Fred, Pauline and Revd Larry Wright will continue to build networks and contacts to explore how churches might participate in a collective response around the Diocese.
Support in time of crisis
Fred, Pauline and Larry are working to build a network of contacts who can offer support to families, clergy and the wider church in times of crisis. Please contact one of them if you need advice.
Other opportunities will no doubt open up as our connections develop and more conversations are held. The Community Regeneration team are happy to continue to play a co-ordinating role in taking this forward in collaboration with Revd Larry Wright, Pauline Weaver and the Birmingham Cathedral team.