Published: 08:50 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 18 August 2011
Christians take action after London riots
Country/Region: United Kingdom, Europe
|Hundreds of local people help in the post-riot clear-up at Clapham Junction, London|
Churches across London have taken action following the recent riots that caused destruction in many of the capital's suburbs.
Many churches in London boroughs including Tottenham, Hackney, Ealing, Peckham, and Croydon opened their doors to support those affected, helped to clear up the debris and held special prayer meetings.
The action comes as Street Pastors founder Les Isaac called upon Britain's Christian community to provide a strong, visible presence on the nation's streets during these tough times.
And in a message sent to clergy and churches in London, the Bishop of London said that the Church had "played a large part in reclaiming the streets for the overwhelming majority of responsible citizens by prayer vigils and public demonstrations of solidarity with other Christians and community groups".
Here are some of the practical Christian responses following the riots:
Churches in Ealing, west London, opened their doors to provide refreshments to those helping to clear up after the violence erupted in the suburb on Monday night. Members took the day off work to help with the clear-up efforts.
Young people attending St. Mark's Battersea Rise participated in a massive community clean up that saw hundreds of people tidy the streets around Clapham Junction with brooms and bin bags.
A prayer vigil was held in the centre of Tottenham, attended by more than 200 people. The meeting went on for 45 minutes before further disturbances forced it to be closed down.
St Mary the Virgin, Tottenham, provided food and drink to people who lost homes, and held a procession during the Sunday morning service to make God's presence known on the streets that had witnessed violence.
Members of All Saints, Peckham, walked around the streets after the riots praying and handing out sandwiches to police officers, many of whom had been on duty through the night. The church held a special service on Sunday evening "to pray for peace and hope in Peckham".
Many other churches in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol also opened their doors and held special prayer meetings.
Street Pastors founder Les Isaac, who has been calling for Christians to go out onto the streets since the rioting began, says that it is even more important for them to be out on the streets now that the violence has calmed down. He also called for church leaders to support such initiatives.
Street Pastors, which was launched in 2003 in response to London's growing gang culture and yobbish behaviour, has more than 9,000 volunteers now patrolling the streets throughout the UK on a regular basis.
Mr Isaac said:
Street Pastors has been a welcome and appreciated presence on Britain's streets every Friday and Saturday evenings for the past eight years. If ever there is a time when we are needed it is now. Street Pastors is keen to stand alongside hurting communities, be a comforting presence and brokers of peace. We have been going out on the streets ever since the start of the riots, but we think as things are calming down, it's now even more important for us to be out and we want church leaders to stand alongside us.
Mr Isaac is also calling on the church to pray strategically during these difficult times. He said:
We are asking the Church to pray: for the police to maintain law and order; for parents to take greater responsibility over their children; for the young people out late at night not to be drawn into further lawless behaviour; for young people within the church to join together in praying for their generation; for young people of other faiths and no faith, who are law abiding; and for God to help us all to be a part of the solution.
I believe that young people have a major part to play in finding solutions for the problems with disaffected youth, and prayer will help to kick start the solution finding process.
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Read the Church Times article - Rioters help themselves; Christians help victims
Read the Christian Today article - Christians must be visible in the community, says Street Pastors founder