24 October, 2008

Enough! Make youth violence history.

I am currently in London and went to the launch of a new campaign; 'Enough! Make Youth Violence History'. I attended with a fantastic and clearly much loved youth worker from the Oasis organisation and was blown away by a few things.

Firt, the concept. You know I am not certain we in Australia have really and truthfully grasped the concept of 'ending' things. There seems to be a feeling of acceptance rather than a real desire to change. Let's take for example the violence that occurs on our streets around nightclubs. The government solution? Curfews and bans in an attempt to distract or subdue, but not really to end violence. The Christian response??? I don't recall hearing one in the news reports so I assume that we are satisfied with the government response. There was little public social justice outrage that these young people were tearing each other apart, just an outrage that they were making our streets unsafe and unclean. The response I have observed around the fair trade issue is another example of our lack of desire to end things. End slavery! 'well, fair trade chocolate doesn't taste as nice and its very expensive'. I have had this response more than I can mentally compute. It's not good enough. To not passionatly desire the end of injustice and act on it is to condone the violence and sadness of the world. Why are we accepting the presence of evil?!?! But last night, I saw youth workers, kids, politicians, funding providers, all saying 'ENOUGH!' They passionately desire the end of violence...and more, they believe it is possible and are working to do so. Let's start believing that injustice CAN end.

Second, the issue. Youth violence is one I had just accepted as a reality. Adolescence are hot-headed, strong, immature and usually frustrated and angry which can lead to violent times when they clash. However I heard testimonies last night from people falling into this category who would just rather be safe. And what did they want? Some safe places to go. Wow, that sounds like something the church can offer. Except they don't just want to go and play your games at youth group. They want to dance, and sing, and play basketball and do all the safe and healthy things they would normally do on the street, but can't. And what do they find? A caring group of people they called their family waiting to look after them and get them off the street. The lesson for me is to listen and serve rather than prescribe and exclude. Youth violence will end when young people have enough support within the community and that means having safe places to go run by safe people. I know we can provide that! We have the solution!

Third, the agencies. Last night had umpteen agencies and politicians and kids from the one community that came to the event run by young people with about five weeks notice. The event was packed! And the clear message coming through was that they all had the same goal and wanted to work together to achieve it. The level of cooperation was amazing, and something I have never witnessed in Australia. We have got to reach out to the agencies and centers who are striving for the same goals. A divided kingdom will never succeed. We must get into the community and learn to support one another! We must learn to say 'enough!' and then work together to fill the gaps so many people are falling through. Cooperation is vital!

Well, that's probably enough ranting for one day. Have a great weekend everybody. I will because I am going to see a castle!


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