Another day in London and another young person who has been murdered as a result of youth violence. Michael Jonas was found with multiple wounds in Betts Park, Anerley, South East London on Thursday 2nd November 2017 at about 19:30 GMT. Michael, who was 17, becomes the 16th young person killed in London in 2017. (Source: BBC)
As a society we should be shocked but the truth is we’ve become desensitised to the regularity of youth murder. We should be heartbroken but how many times can a person’s heart be shattered until you become too numb to even shed a tear. So here we are. The bleak reality which impacts our youth culture in 2017.
Here’s the problem. Easy solutions are not being implemented. There are people who are working hard to try and eradicate this problem. There are people who care. There are people who are willing to put their money where their mouth is. But there are not enough people doing this and this is the issue. Too many people protest, pray and shout about youth violence, not many people turn that frustration into production, deed or action.
To quote Mobb Deep “There’s a war goin’ on outside no man is safe from. You could run, but you can’t hide forever”. We’re losing the war because we’re not fighting smartly. Traditionally those working in the youth sector are great at ground war/hand to hand combat: mentoring, delivering short term programmes/interventions and mediation are some examples. The problem is that this type of combat is exhausting and costly. Many soldiers suffer from weariness in this type of battle and many never return to the frontline. Casualties are high. We suffer from what Paul Tough says in his excellent book Whatever It Takes from Superman syndrome: with good intentions, we think we can save everyone. We can’t and become emotionally, mentally and physically spent. What we need to improve is within the area of air warfare: advocating for the victims, changing legalisation, challenging policy, healing hearts and minds, providing jobs and impacting youth culture in the areas where young people get their morals and values from. A couple of victories in the air makes winning the war on the ground a lot more likely.
Pastor TD Jakes being interviewed by Pastor Steven Furtick on his new book SOAR, spoke about how “God never made a table” (I appreciate that the more theological astute may argue that God coming in the form of Jesus who was a carpenter challenges this argument but bare with me). TD Jakes said “God made trees”. His point is that God will meet us more than halfway but we are to take what God has given us and turn it into something special. My challenge to communities impacted by youth violence is to go and “make tables out of trees” and go and solve this horrendous issue. You may be the answers to your own prayers. For things to change we need social enterprises (children need skills, training and money), mentors (children need role models “We can’t become what we can’t see” – Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook), free therapeutic intervention (children and parents need a safe space to open up), free legal advice specific to youth violence issues (children and parents need to be clued up) and more than anything: children, families and communities impacted by youth violence need love.
While I think we are all capable of developing these interventions, my vexation lies with the church. As I always say the church have the biggest resources (Heaven) and the biggest volunteer service (congregations) but quite frankly has an appalling record of engagement in the area of youth violence.
So my message to pastors, senior leaders and elders is this: your communities are suffering from an epidemic of youth violence. You might not think this impacts you but one day it will be on your door step. Trust me. Do not be like the the priests in the story of Good Samaritan and literally walk past dying people. We are called to the lost. Don’t ignore the problem.
The time for protest is over. We need to move to production. “Lead, follow or get out of the way”.