By VICTOR J. HULBERT, communication director of the British Union Conference*
London Adventist Youth Federation representatives and other local Adventists were among more than 2,000 Londoners who united in a prayer walk on February 22 through two city districts blighted by a recent spate of fatal shootings.
GARNERING SUPPORT: Youth take to the streets of Brixton in England to talk with residents about
making their area safer.
The torch-lit walk followed five murders that occurred in the area in the past month, and was held on the same day Prime Minister Tony Blair convened a government summit on gun crime. Pastors, police officers, and experts on gun crime attended the summit.
A coalition of local Christian leaders organized the walk, which was supported by London’s mayor and the Metropolitan Police Service.
“Parents have spoken to us about young people going to school wearing bullet-proof vests,” said Les Isaac, a local pastor and director of Ascension Trust’s Street Pastors initiative. “I’m walking because there is an expectation that the church should do something—should stand with those who are mourning. They should also find a solution, a way forward to get our young people out of this quagmire.”
The Street Pastors initiative organizes hundreds of volunteer pastors across the country to stroll the streets at night to talk to youth.
Adventists are also active in this process. Local news organizations have interviewed Samantha Robinson, vice president of the London Adventist Youth Federation, regarding the Federation’s initiatives against gun crime. On December 16 and again on January 6, the Federation led out in an Anti-Gun Crime Rally in Brixton.
“From Sabbath to Sabbath we attend Days of Fellowship, socials, campaigns, tent meetings, camp meetings, Go-UKs, AYS programs, and Youth Days,” said Sam Gungaloo, youth leader at Balham Adventist Church. “The list goes on. But we also have a responsibility to embark on a mission reeling in the lost souls on the outside [of the church]. When Jesus walked this earth He spent due time in the synagogue, but His mission was [also] with the people outside.”
The Federation is now producing an anti-gun crime DVD for use in schools, and is planning an outdoor rally to be held this summer.
FINDING SOLUTIONS: Youth and local community leaders disscuss ways of dealing with gun crime.An Adventist church in Manchester works with youth who are vulnerable to the gang culture. Michael Simpson, church pastor, is working with The Way, a church and drop-in center focused on the needs of teens and their families.
“To some extent the old gang structure has broken down,” Simpson told a local television news reporter. “As the gunmen get younger, there’s a lack of control and purpose, more of an expression of adolescent frustrations. But instead of using fists, they are using guns. These youngsters are disconnected from mainstream society.”
Simpson says the Adventist presence can make a difference. The London Adventist Youth Federation has the same message.
“We all have friends that are clearly going in the opposite direction to God,” Gungaloo says. “What will you do about it? God wants those [who are] ready to speak for Him.”
*Information for this article was also provided by Evangelical Alliance.