London Murders Spur March Against Violence
BY VICTOR J. HULBERT, British Union Conference communication director
ark Prince stepped up to the microphone during a rally in Kennington Park recently to address some 5,000 youth who had just marched throughout London with a message of positive living to combat street violence.
"We are the answer for this knife crime -- you, right here, the young people," he said referring to [the event in which] his 15-year-old son was stabbed to death in 2006. Since then, Prince said he has needed to love and to forgive.
"If it means I have to forgive the guy who killed my son, then that's exactly what I'm going to do because I need some mercy myself, I need some forgiveness myself," he said.
Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders say the event was sparked by violence that has led to 16 teenagers in London killed by guns and knives since January 1. The rally and march weren't planned just to combat violence but to offer a positive alternative.
"Our message was clear: Live intentional lives," said Colin Stewart, South England Conference youth ministries director.
Thousands carried banners with the theme "Living Intentionally Versus Existing" throughout the streets of London, which were closed off to traffic for the march. Adventist youth and supporters were accompanied by drill brigades and drum corps along the route that passed the Houses of Parliament and Prime Minister Gordon Brown's residence on Downing Street. As demonstrators marched across the River Thames, people in Lambeth came out of their flats and shops applauding and waving.
London Deputy Mayor Ray Lewis told the crowd at the rally that it was the type of initiative London needs. Other noted speakers included opposition leader David Cameron and cabinet minister Tessa Jowell.
"We recognize that those involved in this kind of violence do not watch the news, but this event helps to raise the issue and get through the barriers," Colin told the London Broadcasting Company.
Since the event, church youth leaders have received calls from mothers looking for support and a way to move forward after losing loved ones. "This tells me there are lots of hurting people waiting for the church to take the lead," Colin said.
"It was awesome," said Katya Garipova, 18, from Berkshire. "It was just amazing to see how people around wanted to know what was going on."
Andrew Leonce, a young adult from Luton came because friends were involved. "I was impressed with their joy and positive message," he said.
The day finished with a Gala Fundraising Concert at the nearby Emmanuel Centre, Westminster, raising £6000 (about US$12,000) toward establishing a LIVE Centre and community projects. --ANN