Churches urge council to invest in youth work after riots

Churches have called the local borough council to invest more in youth work, including faith-based youth work.

Ealing was one of the parts of London badly hit by the riots.

The council convened a special meeting last week to discuss the impact of the riots and invited leaders of faith communities give their views. The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, led special prayers.

As well as hearing from the Borough Youth Mayor, the council invited the Rev Sally Hitchiner, assistant curate of St John’s Anglican Church, to “give the council a different angle” on what happened in the west London borough.

“The main need highlighted by the riots is for ongoing investment in youth work,” Miss Hitchener told Christian Today.

She stressed the case for the "validity" of faith-based youth work.

"My main aim was to provide a perspective from the youth work we have been involved with.”

She told the council that there were good examples of government agencies working in effective partnership with faith-based schools and that thought needed to be given to how this could be done with youth work as well.

“There is such an appetite for working together – it’s a beacon of what community can do in the wake of disaster, and it’ll be great if we can build on that," she said.

"We want to get young people involved and use positive peer pressure in schools to promote a sense of belonging which they can get without joining gangs.”

She added, "There were a lot of people of faith there, Christian and other faiths, but like many Councils, Ealing is wary about appearing partisan or trying to manipulate people into one particular faith.”

The strength of community spirit in Ealing came to the fore the morning after the riots as people mainly mobilised by the churches came out onto the streets to help clear up and console traders hard hit by looting and vandalism.

“We said prayers for all those affected by the riots and we held a minute’s silence for Richard Bowes, who was killed. We gave thanks for the emergency services and the ongoing work of the police in the criminal investigations," she said.

There were special prayers for youths throughout Ealing, asking that they should have good role models and mother and father figures, and for the youths involved to be able to face up to their actions and be able to move on.

Bishop Broadbent is involved in ongoing discussion about youth work in the borough.

He told Christian Today, “It was good that Ealing Council was able to reflect with local residents and businesses on their perception of the riots and their aftermath.

"Here in Ealing the churches have always played their part in youth provision, and I hope that we can build partnerships for the future."