Broken-hearted by the death of Elianne Andam, Marcia Dixon gives a passionate call to us to engage with the issue of gun and knife violence
One of the greatest challenges facing Britain’s black Christian community as well as wider society is gun and knife violence. It’s an issue that has been having a devastating impact increasingly following the shooting of four young women outside a hairdressing salon in Birmingham on New Year’s Day in 2003.
Two women died, two survived, and this tragedy alerted wider society to gangs, violence and crime in urban areas. Every year since then, youth killings – whether by gun or stabbing – have been featured in the news, sparking outrage and concern.
I’ve tried to raise awareness of these issues by writing articles and sharing information about the subject so as to encourage churches to take both spiritual and practical action to combat the issue. In fact, in my efforts to make a difference I volunteered to do PR work for Street Pastors when it was launched in 2003, to help youths locked in this lifestyle.
After years of seeing numerous stories of the murders of black youth by their fellow young people, I saw very few stories about youth killings in the media in 2023 and presumed that the issue had been brought under control. How wrong I was. On Friday 29 September news reports started filtering through that a female private school pupil had been stabbed in Croydon.
Further reports stated that the victim was a 15-year-old teenager, called Elianne Andam and that she had been stabbed in the neck by her best friend’s ex-boyfriend. Elianne had tried to defend her friend during an argument that ensued following the ex’s attempts to win back his ‘girl’ with flowers. People tried to save her life, but it was not possible. I just wanted to cry when I heard the news.
My first thoughts were: “Not again.” I was particularly troubled that the victim was a girl. And in the seven days that followed, four people were murdered.
Women making a difference
The killing of Elianne not only raised awareness about youth crime, but it also brought the issue of misogyny and domestic violence to the fore once again.
When a child dies at the hands of another young person it’s usually the mother that bears the brunt of grief, bereavement and pain that goes with it – whether their child is the victim or the perpetrator.
Thankfully there are women like Pastor Lorraine Jones who have channelled their pain into positive action. Her son Dwayne Simpson was stabbed to death in 2014, aged 20. Pastor Jones’ faith was a source of strength during the early months of her son’s passing, and when she felt ready she started Dwaynamics Boxing Gym (dsfcic.co.uk), a social action project that provides activities to steer at risk and vulnerable young people away from crime and gangs and to show them there is a future. Pastor Lorraine is also regularly invited on media platforms to share her opinion and her experience on the issue.
Jennifer James is another Christian who has put her hands to the plough to work with young people. She has 40 years’ experience and has adapted her services to meet current needs. Her organisation Spirit Arts Youth (spiritartsyouth.co.uk) currently goes into schools to talk to pupils about gun and knife crime, she trains foster carers who provide homes for vulnerable teens about the issue and she recently started working as a facilitator around Stop and Search and community engagement.
We can all take a stand
In the spirit of biblical heroines like Deborah and Queen Esther there are things that we all, as women, can do to play a part in ridding communities of youth crime and reminding young people that they have a future.
Firstly, pray and ask God for help and guidance in supporting youth caught up in gangs, knife violence and youth crime. Also pray for charities and para church organisations actively engaging on the issue. If possible, volunteer and work for organisations that are active in combatting this issue.
[I] presumed that the issue had been brought under control. How wrong I was
It is important that we all go on a journey of learning more about the issues that cause gangs, knife violence and crime, and increase our understanding of how to effectively engage with unchurched, vulnerable youth.
If you know you don’t have the means or will to get involved in this kind of work but have material resources, then donate money to organisations working in this area. And if you run a women’s ministry that is willing, invite charities doing work in this area to speak to the women you lead.
Help create an environment within your church so that women who are worried that their child is going down a negative road and is danger of being a victim or a perpetrator of crime can talk about their fears and get support.
The Bible says the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. This is a great time to reach out to young people with the gospel and share the love of God with them.
Finally, put pressure on your local MP to take the issue seriously and help make their constituency safe for young people.
Enough is enough. We want our youth to stay alive and thrive. And they can…with God’s help.