Firemen extinguishing a fire - text reads 'Who remembers the riots?'

 
In the summer of 2011, riots broke out across large towns and cities in the UK, including London, Birmingham, Manchester. Tragically, lives were lost.  

After the riots, opinions were aired, such as 'the youth are to blame' and 'why such mindless behaviour?' Others suggested a 'lack of discipline' or a 'failure of schooling'. Their solution? More discipline, greater penalties, fines and incarceration.

However, these reactions seemed slightly disproportionate in light of the many adult (and white-collar) misdemeanours. The MPs' expenses scandal comes to mind, as does the destructive abuses of certain sectors of the press, and of course the unrestrained greed of bankers, which led to the global financial crisis. Their 'discipline' included generous pay-outs, a caution and sometimes questioning by a parliamentary panel.

‘A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord…’ (Isaiah 40:3)

The danger of disciplinary rhetoric when applied to youth and children is that it can so easily sidestep underlying causes and in this case, the rumblings that had been percolating for years. Those who heard these 'wilderness' voices were often community youth workers. The rest of us, who prefer avoiding their 'wilderness' whenever possible, heard them only when they shouted. 

By Cham Kaur-Mann

This summer, we carried out the Young Voices project, centred on responding to the 2011 riots and related public attitudes.

The project worked with groups from four London schools, developing a trust-building session with the police involved in the riots and creating a survey written by young people for young people. The young people then created a newspaper about the project, which they distributed at King's Cross station in London and elsewhere.

We are committed to placing children and young people’s voices at the heart of our policy and programmes, and bringing to light voices and opinions that are often marginalised and unheard. 

 

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By Rev Cham Kaur-Mann - Baptist minister
Rev Cham Kaur-Mann
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