London Riots: British Christians Call for Prayer

Michael Ireland

London Riots: British Christians Call for Prayer

Riots in London over the weekend have left Christians greatly concerned for the future of their communities as more than 300 people were arrested and more than 60 charged with offences.

Violence broke out first in Tottenham, then Enfield, Walthamstow and Brixton on Saturday night, following the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan last Thursday.

The website www.ChristianToday.com  says rioters attacked police officers and set buildings and cars on fire, while looters caused further damage by breaking into shops.

The website quotes Nims Obunge, pastor and Chief Executive of the Peace Alliance, who said there were questions surrounding Duggan’s death that needed to be answered.

“We need justice, that’s what they’re crying out for,” he told the BBC. “They are crying for justice and we can’t ignore that,” he said.

He added: “It is right that this community should have the questions that it has answered and until those questions are answered I don’t think we can effectively re-build the community we want to rebuild.”

The website also quoted Alan Argent, minister of Trinity Congregational Church in Brixton, who said he was woken in the early hours of Monday morning by the sounds of looting and police moving in. He appealed for “restraint” and asked that Christians pray for Brixton and other areas affected by the riots.

“It’s a rather disturbing reminder of the unrest in the late seventies and 1980s and we just have to be hopeful that things don’t escalate,” he said.

“But it is a worry and we are concerned that some people may lose their jobs at a time of recession, because people may move out if they don’t feel this is a safe area, shops might close down and we may lose investment in the area.

“Brixton is a place of hope and promise. It has a cosmopolitan population that gets on extraordinarily well and the riots shouldn’t be allowed to set back the progress that has been made.”

Rioting took place in Ealing, west London, where the windows of a Tesco supermarket have been smashed out, a car was set on fire and rubbish has been strewn in public areas. There was also a fire in Haven Green park, opposite Ealing Broadway Tube (underground) station.

The Ealing Gazette newspaper reported one local council leader as saying “Police have control of Ealing.”

In an article for the Gazette by Poppy Bradbury the newspaper said Ealing Council leader Julian Bell tweeted at about 11.30pm Monday night (August 8): "Spoken to Ealing Borough Commander who tells me that the police have control of Ealing town center."

Bell's assurance came as riots swept across the capital, with violence also erupting in Ealing town center.

Riot police sealed off Haven Green, a popular spot for courting couples and people walking their dogs, following reports of cars and buses in flame and masked youths marching outside Ealing Broadway station.

Ealing Common councillor Jon Ball tweeted a picture of two cars and a Route Number 65 bus set on fire on Haven Green just before midnight on Monday night, as car windows were smashed and damaged in other areas of the city.

Sudha Venkataramana saw a car set on fire outside the family home just off Castlebar Road, Ealing, before 11pm.

She said: "We heard loud noises on the street at about 10.45pm. There was a group of 20 to 25 teenagers on the street in Castlebar Road off Pinewood Grove. We heard them smashing car windows as they went by and set this car on fire.

"Almost all the cars parked outside have their windows smashed and dented. I can't believe this is happening, so unreal. I hope the culprits are caught and punished."

A Gazette reporter was assaulted earlier in the evening and had his camera stolen after police sealed off Ealing Broadway and Ealing Broadway station.

Raphael, who lives in West Ealing, wrote on the BBC website: “I am at home with my family in West Ealing, 300 meters from the shops that are being attacked. There are hooded teenagers walking past our house with bottles and bats. The shop owner from the corner shop is standing up in front of his shop to defend it in case it is attacked. We are starting to talk about ways to defend our house because there are people shouting outside. We do not feel safe at all. We need help. I don't see any other way but to bring in the army.”

Chris Jones, a filmmaker and author, wrote on his blog (www.chrisjonesblog.com ) : “It’s 3am and I am finding it hard to sleep.

“That’s because my home town, Ealing, is under siege right now. I am watching videos from Youtube, the BBC and Twitter pictures in disbelief at what a group of disorganized , but opportunistic, kids can do in just one night.”

Jones said he had been away, but came home Monday evening after hearing the news, and on the way back into Ealing, “I was hassled by a couple of kids no more than twelve years old while I was driving down my road.”

He continued: “Outside now I can hear the helicopter circling, and I can see the pictures being shot from that helicopter of the shop across the road from Ealing Studios [where the Monty Python TV series was made], set ablaze and fire fighters doing their best. I am in shock as I see shops, coffee houses and restaurants I visit, smashed and looted. Cars on fire on the street where I walk home.”

Jones said that Twitter “is a stream of information, misinformation, worried relatives, stunned residents (often with videos or pix) wondering what the hell has brought this to our door?”

He added: “I was in Ealing over a decade ago when the IRA set off a car bomb. Now I am here when masked kids run riot, thieving and destroying, unchallenged by an exhausted and overstretched police force.

“I feel sad and depressed this this is where, as a society, we find ourselves.

“Lord only knows what tomorrow will hold for us all as these terrible events are really just yards from the studio offices.”

All this comes after shops, bars and pubs in Ealing Broadway were asked to close around 5pm following police intelligence that violence could spark in the town center -- as horrifying riots spread across the capital and around the country.

Ealing Police had yet to give a formal statement.

A string of violence spread across London, and into other towns and cities across England following a protest in Tottenham, north London, on Saturday after Mark Duggan was killed by police last week.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and Prime Minister David Cameron were both reportedly on their way back from holiday as the Metropolitan Police were set to deploy more police officers to the streets.

This reporter and ANS Founder Dan Wooding both lived in Ealing in the 1970s. Together we worked on the Gazette’s predecessor, The Middlesex County Times, whose offices were located just around the corner from the London Transport Ealing Broadway train and subway station and Haven Green park.

Publication date: August 10, 2011

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