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In England, faith groups work to heal riot-scarred towns

London (ENI) Many faith communities in England are working

together on the front line this week after days of rioting in which

hooded youths ransacked hundreds of businesses and shops in many parts of

London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham and smaller towns.

 

A 26-year-old man was reported killed in Croydon, south of London, and more

than 500 people have been arrested after business and shops were burned and

looted. Prime Minister David Cameron recalled Parliament from summer recess

and vowed to put an additional 16,000 police officers on the streets.

 

Parishes around the country have been offering support to shell-shocked

residents. The Anglican church of St. Mary the Virgin in Tottenham, where

the unrest began on August 6, is distributing meals, providing hot water and

phone-charging facilities to those left without electricity. St. Ignatius

Catholic Church in nearby Stamford Hill is offering food and counseling.

The Rev. Valentin Dedji of St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Tottenham is

caring for the family of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old whose killing by police

last week sparked a peaceful demonstration on August 6 that spiraled into

violence.

 

On the evening of August 8, Christians, Muslims and Jews gathered for a

prayer vigil in Tottenham and more vigils are planned.

 

Phil Rosenberg, interfaith officer from the Board of Deputies of British

Jews, said seeing London’s faith communities coming together gave hope that

“a city so dear to us all” could be rebuilt. “By our standing together, we

have the beginnings of an answer to the challenge facing London. If people

from different backgrounds, different faiths and different professions, can

come together for London, we can rebuild this great city, and make it a much

better city yet,” he said. He noted that August 9 is the Jewish date the 9th

of Av, which marks the occurrence of “sinat chanim,” or baseless hatred.

 

Deep social inequality, the promotion of consumerism and loss of hope for

young people blighted by high unemployment must all be acknowledged before

the riots in Britain’s inner cities can be overcome, said Alan Craig,

retired Christian Peoples Alliance party leader and member of Newham Council

in London’s East End.

 

He said that many Christians are working in inner cities “to offer hope,

where many have lost all hope in the face of an economic downturn and

government austerity measures. The rioting has to stop. There is no excuse

for mindless violence and avarice. But neither must we demonize these young

people.”

 

A spokesman for the Finsbury Park Mosque said the members are very concerned

about the riots and working to build peace through various initiatives.

Recently they funded interactive workbooks to help local primary school

children learn about the nature of anti-social behavior and the effect it

can have on communities.

 

In a statement, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, condemned the violence and asked for prayers especially “for those facing danger on the streets, those whose livelihood has been ruined, those whose lives are marked by fear, those whose parents are worried about the behavior of their youngsters and for those who, at this time, are being tempted into the ways of violence and theft. May God grant us courage and

determination to shape our lives with dignity, self respect and care for the common good.”

 

The Rev. Leo Osborn, president of the Methodist Conference, meeting in Durban, South Africa, said conference members were deeply saddened to hear of the riots. “We have been assured of the prayers of the worldwide Methodist family for all who have suffered distress and loss, to which, of course, I add my own prayers.”

 

 

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