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Rioters help themselves; Christians help victims

10 August 2011

by Ed Thornton

CHURCHES in London were at the forefront of efforts to help those whose homes and shops were destroyed this week in riots that the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, described as “appalling — but not wholly un­ex­pected”.

“The events of the past few days in London are appalling — but not wholly unexpected,” Bishop Chartres said on Tuesday. “Whatever the real motivations of those who have brought violence to our streets, there will be a proper time for sober analysis and an assessment of the role of gang culture in the capital.”

He said that churches in the diocese were “at the forefront” of “clearing up the débris and caring for the victims of what has happened”.

In a message sent to clergy and churches in London yesterday, Bishop Chartres, who had returned from visiting Enfield and Tottenham, 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".

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement saying that those who had committed acts of violence "have achieved nothing except to intensify the cycle of depravation and vulnerability". Dr Williams said the "major question to address" was "how to combat . . . the alienation and cynicism that leads to destruction.

"The Government has insisted on the priority of creating stronger, better-resourced local communities. This priority is now a matter of extreme urgency. We need to see initiatives that will address anxieties and provide some long-term stability in community services, especially for the young. Meanwhile the Church will maintain its commitment to all communities at risk, and is ready to offer its help and solidarity in every possible way."

Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday, Dr Williams said that the country's "educational philosophy . . . has been more and more dominated by an instrumentalist model; less and less concerned with a building of virtue, character and citizenship". He said a high priority should be placed upon "not only ... rebuilding the skills of parenting in some of our communities, but in rebuilding education itself".

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, also speaking in the Lords, asked the Government to provide assurance that "the broader question of resourcing of the police should not be too glibly tied up with current plans for cuts in public expenditure. The public does need to be assured that first things come first, the peace of the realm."

The director of the Evangelical Alliance, Steve Clifford, said: “Prayer changes things, and, as Christians, we are called to pray on behalf of our nation. . . Once this madness is over, some serious and far-ranging questions need to be asked. How do we respond to pockets of young men and women growing up in our inner-city areas who have been failed by education, have little hope of finding employment, and to whom the gang is their community?”

A prayer vigil will be held at Westminster Central Hall in London tomorrow between 2 - 4 pm.

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