Hackney Community Faith Leaders March Against Gun and Knife Crime

Richard Daly

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." (Martin Luther King)

On a scorching bank holiday (7 May), community organisations, faith groups and local councillors joined together on a march around Hackney, Faith-Leaders-holding-bannerletting members of the public know that they care about the youth in the borough.

Among the 62 lives which have already been claimed in the capital this year through gun and knife crime, around a quarter of these have been in Hackney, the latest of which involved a shooting and acid attack which took place just the previous night.

The youth make up the majority of the 62 faces to have lost their lives through acts of senseless violence. However, on this occasion, the youth took centre stage, but for all the right reasons, as a group of young drummers from the Hackney Seventh-day Adventist Pathfinder Club led a loud and lively procession which brought all Pathfinders-march-through-Hackneysections of the Hackney community out onto the streets. Hackney Councillor, Ian Rathbone, who was responsible for putting the day together, had a message for members of the public. He said: "We are walking today to say enough is enough. We have seen the lives of our young people cut short so today we are walking together in unity to seek solutions, strengthen those who are hurting and let the community know that we care."

Joining Cllr Rathbone were recently elected Hackney Mayor, Philip Glanville, Deputy Mayor, Antoinette Bramble as well as representatives from various faith groups including the United Reformed Church, Anglican Church, Stoke Newington Methodist church, Stamford Hill mosque and the Hackney Seventh-day Adventist church.

Recently re-elected as Hackney's Mayor, Philip Glanville said: "It was a pleasure to be part of something which brought people together. Meetings like these – where people are visible with one mission in mind ‒ are important. Today was about reclaiming the streets of Hackney and it was encouraging that many young people took a lead in this."

Representing the Hackney Seventh-day Adventist church was its local minister Pastor Joojo Bonnie who spoke passionately about the importance SEC-President-Pastor-Emmanuel-Osei-and-Hackney-SDA-Church-Pastor-Joojo-Bonnie-with-Pathfinders-002of life. He said, "none of us has the right to take away the life of anyone. We have lost 62 lives in London this year. We have been denied a song that will never be sung, a picture that will never be painted and a dream that will never be fulfilled. Yes, we care."

One of the things which made the day so successful was the emergence of youth taking a lead in all the proceedings. 20-year-old Jade Brooks, a member of the Hackney Pathfinder Club felt that the day went well. "What took place today was good because it brought the community together while also making people aware of what's going on in the area in terms of organisations and clubs which young people can tap into." Joining Jade was her sister, Riann Brooks, 22, who said, "This was just a first step in letting people know that we care. There is still a very long way to go. We need to find practical solutions to the problems which damage our communities and more events like these could make a difference."

Hackney Pathfinder leader, Andrea Simpson, was proud of the young people who took a leading role on the day. She said: "The youth are today's leaders. We have lost too many Jade-and-Riann-Brooksof them this year. We need our youth and care about them. Pathfinders is a club committed to youth involvement and engagement within the community in a positive way and we will continue to march within our community because we care."

South England Conference President, Dr Emmanuel Osei, was clearly humbled with all which took place on the day. He said: "Today was proof that a difference can be made when people of all faiths come together in solidarity to show that they care about their community. It is very encouraging when members of the public come up to you asking who our young Pathfinders are and how they can get their young people involved. We all had one purpose today – to tell the people of Hackney that we care and the life of every young person matters to us all."

Hackney faith leaders and councillors concluded the walk with a peace vigil at the St John of Hackney church, with a minute's silence for those who have lost their lives both in the capital and in Hackney. Following this, members of the United Reformed Church Choir led everyone in a rousing rendition of the gospel song 'Lean on Me' while participants all joined hands together in solidarity.