The Revd Andrew Brazier, Minister at the ecumenical Beacon Church in Pheasey in the West Midlands, explains what motivated a group to walk 118 miles with a cross made out of knives.
The idea that our young people are under threat is very scary in itself. The idea that they treat carrying a knife for self-defence as normal is horrific. The walk came out of the idea that we wanted to tell folks that there were simple solutions to the crisis.
We kept hearing our leaders suggesting that solving knife crime was complicated. I don't deny its hard, but it is not complicated. The three key areas that would help are:
1.More and better youth work. We have lost the detached youth workers in the community, and although the churches do their best to cover, we need government backed programmes. Young people need someone to talk to who has the legitimacy of authenticity. Or as they might say, someone cool.
2.We need a concerted campaign to convince young people not to carry knives. statistically they are far more likely to be injured with the weapon they are carrying than anyone elses.
3.We need to support our police and give them time to build up relationships in the community. We have been told by experts that local policing based on local relationships can bring big changes.
Several ideas and people came together to create the astonishing cross of knives. What struck us was how many people wanted to help once they knew what we were trying to do. I dont use the word miraculous lightly for, in order for this to happen at all, the tumblers all had to line up. So many stories grew up around the project.
Confronted by the enormity of the 118 mile walk from Kingstanding to Westminster, and trying to assemble such a creation, each crisis found unexpected solutions. Running out of time to weld the knives kindly provided by West Midlands Police, a chap from a company called Savenaker Solutions in Erdington came forward to help weld it. He wanted to do it because he had been in prison for something violent. He wanted this to be part of his rehabilitation. A lady with expertise in publicity came out of retirement and gave us superb coverage for the whole journey.
A family came forward who had lost a son to knife crime. Young friends of the son, Adam, came on the walk (see photo below), and were brilliant at talking to the press. Simultaneously we felt triumphant in undertaking such a thing, and deeply sad at how many lives had been damaged by knife crime.
The walk aspect took place during Holy Week and was a true pilgrimage. The challenge; to walk the 118 miles in the six days. This meant roughly 20 miles a day. There were logistical challenges, physical issues and psychological barriers to push through. Ultimately though it became abundantly clear that God was behind this. When our feet gave up we found that a member of the team was an ITU nurse, when we were lost - someone would lead us, when we felt week, strength would come. Even at the end, when the wheels literally came off, a scout group from Ealing stepped in to provide a replacement trailer for the cross.
The most emotional moment was when, as we held the final act of worship and protest in Westminster, the cross was wheeled through the police cordon and was placed proudly behind the worshipers. Strangers stopped and joined in, Jack Dromey the MP for Erdington spoke, and a young man led us in prayer. I was so proud of everyone who took part. I saw the lame walk, the silent speak, and I heard the word of love spoken over the traffic and mayhem. We can fix this problem.