'Choose Life, Drop the Knife': London church in mission to end knife crime

A parish church in north London is leading a fight against knife crime after four young men were stabbed to death on New Year's Eve in one of the worst ever days for knife crime in London.

St Mellitus Catholic Church, near Finsbury Park, is hoping to raise £9,000 for a 'knife bin' outside its building where people can anonymously and securely hand in their weapons.

Google MapsSt Mellitus Roman Catholic Church, in the Diocese of Westminster, is in an area of London with particularly high rates of knife crime.

The parish itself is in an area with high levels of knife crime and after two young boys were killed in the area, St Mellitus' justice and peace group decided to focus their energy on combating the rising tide of teenagers carrying knives.

Since then volunteers from the church have started campaigns, raised money and joined police officers on 'search and sweeps' in the local park which parish priest Canon John O'Leary tells Christian Today is notorious for gangs hiding their knives.

'There are terrible things that happen,' he says, before adding: 'But there are also wonderful things that happen.' And the church's efforts are aimed at being a light in the otherwise growing darkness of knife crime.

The 'Choose Life, Drop the Knife' campaign has been running for years, long before the recent deaths on New Year's Eve, and when Father O'Leary is asked why the church is getting involved he says the 'reason rather obviously is we want to save young people's lives'.

He told Christian Today: 'There is a great sense of alienation and by being a member of a gang you are creating a sense of belonging.

'We have to try and provide an alternative and a real sense of belonging [in the Church],' he said.

'It is trying to bring everyone together.'

He adds: 'Not that I have all the answers but it is trying to work out what makes a young man feel like he has to carry a knife. What has happened that they think that is necessary?'

It comes after London Mayor Sadiq Khan condemned the 'horrific' killings on New Year's Eve, saying perpetrators will face that 'full force of the law'. 

He said: 'The police were out in force helping people enjoy our city's fantastic celebrations last night, and I thank them. However, it is horrific that knife crime has claimed another four young lives as the New Year begins.

'We will work tirelessly in 2018 and beyond to stamp out this scourge.

'I want to be absolutely clear – if you use a knife the full force of the law will be brought down on you. You will be caught and prosecuted.'