Church vows to play proactive role in tackling violent crime

Churches should play a key role in fighting gun and knife crime in their communities, the General Synod has unanimously agreed.

The Church of England’s national assembly voted by 315 to zero in favour of the motion calling on the church to take practical steps to prevent serious youth violence.

Members called for Diocesan Boards of Education to encourage alternatives to excluding children from school and for dioceses to provide more training for church leaders.

The church was also called on to work more with other organisations to provide support and pastoral care for those affected.

Churches should be opened as “safe places” to protect young people from being harmed or drawn into gangs, the assembly heard.

Leading the debate, the Reverend Canon Dr Rosemarie Mallet, a priest in Angell Town, south London, said: “At present churches are remarkably good at responding when a death occurs on our patch.

“However, our contribution is mostly reactive, and this motion is calling upon the church to be proactive.

“We must remember that the stories of violence among young people are not simply ‘their’ stories, they are ‘our’ stories, not only through our common creation in the image of God but also because these young people are part of our communities, many either attending a church school or living in the local area.

“In some parishes families of perpetrators and victims live side by side, and there the church can be a place not only of pastoral care for individuals but also repentance, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation with each other and with God.

“We can sometimes see this as just an urban issue. But with middle class drug-taking fuelling the rise in ‘county lines’ drug trafficking, vulnerable young people are groomed and exploited to feed this lifestyle and violent crime in our coastal, university and market towns has increased.

“One of the young men from my parish was moved for safety to Portsmouth and was shot dead there not long after.”

The Synod also heard stories from the floor about different cases of serious youth violence in communities across the country.

Kashmir Garton, a lay member from the Diocese of Worcester who works as a senior manager within the criminal justice system, said: “The church is in a unique position to be proactive in such situations as it exists in every parish community.

“It is present at key life events and is involved in the delivery of education in its church schools, Sunday schools, toddler groups and youth groups.”