Praying for the riots

Riots spread across the country in August causing untold suffering to families, businesses and communities. We need to stand together as a Network in solidarity and in prayer and action with those suffering.

We also need to pray against the injustice of poverty, social exlusion and the resulting criminality which underlies these events.

Most people’s responses to the riots will be a confusing mess, much like the riots themselves. Here’s a sample of what people connected to SPEAK, and a few friends of friends have been saying – to inform your prayers and action, or just to make you think/strike up a conversation.

On the causes

"I’m appalled by the violence. These people have no good reason to riot, but we need to look at the causes of why they're doing it. Every social evil has a social cause."

"Criminality is not a condition people are born into. It is created."

"Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart."

"When you cut facilities, slash jobs, abuse power, discriminate, drive people into deeper poverty and shoot people dead whilst refusing to provide answers or justice, the people will rise up and express their anger and frustration if you refuse to hear their cries. A riot is the language of the unheard."

Martin Luther King Jr

"Those youths we saw on our televisions didn't create our society and its norms. They didn't bankrupt the country nor have they the power to do so. They don’t shape society, they are merely products of it. They are misguided and apathetic, disrespectful and unsympathetic. In that regard, they mirror society’s response to their own lives." 

Bali Rai

If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth. 

African proverb

On the possible outcomes

"The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility." 

Martin Luther King, Jr

"In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything: 'Yes,' said the young man. 'You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you? Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.'

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere"

"Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love...Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding." 

Martin Luther King, Jr

On the general response


JD sports sells shoes made by sweatshop child labour and no one cares. Half a million kids in london below the poverty line and no one cares. One of the poor kids robs a trainer from JD sports: 'oh the shock, the horror, the outrage, the feral kids, the yobs'"

"Love drives out fear. I don't think there is a quick and easy solution to the violence on the streets of cities around Britain. Calling in the army doesn't seem like a solution. Lets show show some hope instead."

"For 32 years we have been telling people that greed is good, then we are surprised when 'the wrong sort of people' get greedy. Pray that the Gospel of nonviolence may inspire creative ways to rebuild our cities."

There's a weird re-writing of history with the 1980s riots, remembered now as decent, organised and not involving 'scallies/chavs' (by which I assume people mean working class people) compared to the anarchy of these riots – but this is nostalgic rubbish, riots have ALWAY been chaotic and messy.

On our response

Just been out in Manchester City Centre with hundreds of young people who brought brooms, bags and dustpans to clear up the city. Community spirit is alive and well.

Christians have not been condemning, they have been weeping, not in judgement but in sorrow

We do need to stop looking upwards (blaming politicians), and instead STEP upwards ourselves. We need good people to be councillors, MPs and ministers. Will you step up?