By Josh Grear
On the 11th April we celebrated a year of the Brixton Project. A year that has been full of learning, prayer, patience, opportunity, growth, and frustration.
Frustration is not easy to write about, and I feel that it is a familiar and persistent feature of youth work, community work and peacemaking.
Since we moved onto the estate, two young people have been murdered - one just off the estate a hit and run, the other a shooting after an altercation between to two friends. These tragic events have caused hurt and pain in the community and frustration and sadness for the team.
Yet, other than these tragic incidents there had been little violence, that we knew of. There had been isolated incidents that were not life threatening, and nor did they seem to be a part of an ongoing conflict between different groups of young people. Whilst other areas of London had summer violence, Angell Town and Brixton seemed oddly quiet. This was cause for celebration, but also question. There were moments where I wondered if other projects, with different visions and missions, would be better suited to Angell Town.
These moments have revealed a naivety and a continued need to learn and connect with young people.
The past few weeks have seen a huge increase of youth violence with 13 stabbings and a shooting on Angell Town estate. Leaving some young people in critical conditions, some of whom will have life changing injuries.
The shooting took place 60 meters from my desk. 60 meters. Our office, the home of CHIPS and a centre of prayer, thought, and practice for peacemaking.
The first I heard about the shooting was first thing on Friday morning. It appeared at the top of my Facebook feed. I spent the rest of the day, and the weekend, feeling a mixture of frustration, despair, and like I needed to be doing more.
I had an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. A feeling that took the shape of a voice that said I am not qualified enough, or good enough at my job, to speak into situations of such pain, shock and grief that is affecting the individuals, young people, and the community more widely.
There is a real tension that I, and the team, experience in our approach to peacemaking. We are committed to long term change, and this is based on foundational belief that long term commitment and long term planning is the most meaningful and effective approach to peacemaking. Yet, that does not alleviate the desire to impact immediate change. To try and discover a magic cure-all that simply does not exist.
I have spent some time discussing my response with several colleagues in the area. As much as I might hope that there is a project to be done that will fix youth violence, it simply does not exist. All that remains is to be like christ, to be. To journey with the community, to feel the grief, to lament the violence and the loss. To embrace frustration and vulnerability.
Frustration. It exists because we have a vision for a different world. I feel frustrated because I believe that there can be peace. Because I know there is not a short-term solution. Because I have hope. Frustration drives me forwards in pursuit of that hope.
So I lament the violence of the past few weeks, I abhor the pain and suffering that it inflicts upon both victim and perpetrator, and their wider communities. But I embrace that frustration and use it to drive me forwards in my commitment to a Christ-centred long term approach. I am journeying with this community, this team, and this vision in the knowledge that I cannot do it alone, that it will not be quick and easy, but most importantly, in the knowledge that God’s peace in this place, will come.