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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

Tackling knife crime in Verona

We are in the midst of a public health emergency, according to Labour MP Sarah Jones This follows the publication yesterday for police-recorded offences involving knives or sharp instruments. These rose by no less than 16% in a single year. Ms Jones, the founder and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, commented “It’s official, knife crime is at the highest level on record. The proportion of murders involving a knife has jumped from 30 to 40%, and across the country young people are living with fear and trauma. Today’s figures confirm that this is a public health emergency.” Tragically some 39 children and young people in England and Wales were killed by knives in 2017. And we are not just talking here about big city crime. Only this April a double stabbing took place outside an Ormskirk pub resulting in a young man from Aughton being remanded in custody. Clearly something has to be done and the BBC reported this week that teenagers in England are being given lessons in school to reduce the risk of knife violence in the summer holidays. As it happened Jacqui and I attended a play-streaming on Wednesday in which knife crime among young people was explored in some depth. In fact, during the play there were no less than three fatal stabbings. Tragically the third was self-inflicted. "O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die." This production of Romeo and Juliet by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford deliberately set out to combine youthful energy with the ever-present threat of violence. Directed by Erica Whyman the play is very fast-moving, even frenzied, within a contemporary urban youth culture. The reviewer for the Stage writes of the star-crossed lovers: “Together they convey the blinkered giddiness of the young couple’s infatuation, the arrow-slit of adolescence in which tomorrow morning seems an age away and no adult can possibly understand the depth of your pain.” For these adolescents, everything is black and white. In fact, light and dark imagery is featured prominently in this, one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. So Romeo sees Juliet: “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” Even in her death "For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes this vault a feasting presence full of light." In response Juliet is just as dramatic: “Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night.” Light and darkness, of course, is a fundamental symbol in the Bible, especially in John’s Gospel and his letters. Above all, in Jesus: “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.” (John 12:46) We live in a spiritual context of light and darkness. Clearly knife crime has many causes, especially in the way our society is fractured and how vulnerable young people may seek to protect themselves. However, the fundamental cause is spiritual; otherwise you are scratching the surface. We are talking now about the reality of evil. So Jesus teaches us to pray to be delivered from evil. Clearly God’s will is not being done here on earth as it is in heaven. And at the end of the day we have no defence against this power of evil. We need help, even rescue. For when it comes down to it, life is black and white. And we need to choose. In fact, today’s verse from Bible Gateway (which incidentally I learn each morning, first thing): “But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7). Many Christians – like myself – chose to turn to Christ as adolescents. Maybe young people see reality more clearly when understood as black and white, good and evil, truth and false, right and wrong, light and darkness. And of course, it is the nature of young people to want to do something about it. They don’t just see knife crime as sad but inevitable. Let’s get involved. Let's do something. So it was encouraging in this week of bad news that the BBC produced a video clip of a young Christian getting involved. This shows how a young Londoner, Stephen Addison, is fighting violent crime in Christ’s name through sport and in particular, boxing. Knife crime may have a spiritual cause and as Christians we have the confidence, even the resources, to tackle the problem head-on in Jesus’ name. So Jesus calls each of us to shine for him each in our own small corner. “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” (Ephesians 5:8)

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