Ecumenical response grows to London riots

Published August 10, 2011

The Southwark Cathedral and other Church of England churches have opened their doors to help care for those affected by the London riots. Photo: David Young

LONDON — The Church of England has opened its churches to help care for those affected by the worst rioting this country has seen in years. The priority has been clearing up the debris, assisting victims or simply providing a quiet place to pray after four days of rioting and looting that began here on Aug. 6. and has since spread to neighbouring towns.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to restore law and order on the streets. “Nothing is off the table,” he said in a statement from Downing Street, adding that police are prepared to use water cannons to deal with rioters.

Police have so far made 1,200 arrests following the shooting, by police, of Mark Duggan, a local man who had been under police investigation. What began as a peaceful demonstration to protest the shooting turned violent on the streets of Tottenham in north London.

Faith leaders, politicians and youth leaders from Tottenham gathered on Aug. 8 for a “Vigil of Hope” organized by local churches from the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the United Reform Church, the Pentecostalist and Independent churches, and representatives from the Muslim and Jewish faiths.

At least three Church of England bishops have also issued statements condemning the violence and appealing for calm.

“The events of the past few days in London are appalling but not wholly unexpected,” said the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. “Whatever the real motivations of those who have brought violence to our streets, there will be a proper time for sober analysis and an assessment of the role of gang culture in the capital.”

In their appeal to those responsible for the disturbances to stop responsible for the disturbances to stop, the Bishop of Southwark and Bishop for Urban Life and Faith, Christopher Chessun, remarked that “The images of violence and destruction on our screens do not represent the strong, hopeful and vibrant communities …”

Bishop Chessun said he would visit affected communities. “I continue to promise my support for, and solidarity with, all who seek to build positive and constructive engagement,” he said.

In Luton, which so far has been spared civil disruption, the Bishop of St. Albans, Alan Smith, led clergy and faith community leaders in appealing for “a calm heart.”

The Church of England has issued a special prayer for peace that has been distributed via Twitter and Facebook and diocesan and parish websites. It reads:

Gracious God,
We pray for peace in our communities this day.
We commit to you all who work for peace and an end to tensions,
And those who work to uphold law and justice.
We pray for an end to fear,
For comfort and support to those who suffer.
For calm in our streets and cities,
That people may go about their lives in safety and peace.
In your mercy, hear our prayers,
now and always. Amen.


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