8 August 2011

Voices from the London riots

News moves fast. I started writing this at 22:16 on the 8th of August.

I have to admit I do not know the underlying reason behind the riots. I cannot put myself into the mindset of those who choose to express themselves through violence, with scant regard for others. There seems to have been (at first sight, pending an investigation) a great injustice with the killing of Mr Duggan by the police.

Below are just a few of the comments and eyewitness testimonies that I have gathered off facebook and twitter. I do not agree with all of the statements, and find some of them positively vile, though I include them only for reasons of demonstrating a range of views. The identities of all involved have been removed, as I have not requested permission to repost. If anyone objects to these, then please let me know and I will remove any offending comments

“The worst terrorism London has seen yet. The Met should be ashamed (how much taxes do we pay towards the Met?) London should be ashamed.”

“Surely looting is just another word for stealing isn’t it?”

“Just hoping all my friends and family are safe.”

“riot police on our road, downstairs neighbour just told us to ‘get our knives ready’ – brilliant”

“Where are the police? The whole of Clapham junction has been ransacked.”

“Wanted…Jo Frost & one humungeously large naughty step to be deployed in London.”

“If you’re going to set fire to any house in London please make it the Big Brother house.”

“the government should buy up all the old coal mines etc and anyone convicted of this rioting be sent to work down them. Riotous jobsworth hooligans!!”

“Wish people would stop criticizing the emergency services, especially Police. I’d like to see them do a better job!”

“My friend’s dad goes to hackney to reassure her. His car has been torched.”

For my own part, I have not seen any violence. I work in London, and in the late afternoon, we could hear a lot more sirens than normal. There was no sign of trouble on the trains or anywhere within sight during the later part of the evening rush hour. I remember watching the cars burn in the race riots on Marsh Farm around 20 years ago and have no desire to see that.

From the news and from the social networking sites, I see actions of violence, greed and hate. I read comments of condemnation and fear. There is very little love around. I am ashamed to say that some of the more vile comments above came from those who profess to be Christians.

I have no fear of returning to work in London tomorrow. I shall not however be staying late into the hours of darkness. I am reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:5. “for you are children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night nor of the darkness….for those who sleep, sleep at night and those are drunk get drunk at night.” There is a kind of thoughtlessness that is akin to a kind of drunkenness which seems to be present in these pockets of unrest.

To my Christian viewpoint, the first course of action is to pray. I think most Christians would agree with me on this (I hope). But it is not the only thing we can do. These problems seem to be related to community problems, and if any entity has a tradition of being at the centre of a community, it is the church. Where the churches can be in the geographical centres, stand up to the violence and demonstrate love, then that will be more effective than any amount of street preaching.

Words of condemnation do not help. In order to demonstrate love, we first ought to recognise that those who loot, steal, burn and destroy are just as loved by God as you and I. They are deserving of no less love and grace than that which has been bestowed on us.

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