Last Monday, at a conference organised by the Fayre Share Foundation and the Faiths Forum for London, hosted by the BBC’s Religious Affairs Correspondent, Roger Pigott, and beginning with a keynote address by Boris Johnson, I found encouragement and inspiration.
By the role of the churches and other faith groups in clearing offering safe places to go for those on the receiving end of the worst of the disturbances, in places such as Tottenham and Croydon, where security and a welcoming cup of tea were to be found.
By their leading contribution in the aftermath by helping with the clearing up of the streets and getting people together to explore what went wrong.
By the balanced and informative information proffered by reseachers, which punctured the reassuring notion that there were simple explanations and easy solutions.
By the airing of uncomfortable but necessary truths; such as that the way stop and search was being conducted was a contributory factor to a mood of anger, which effected those who got involved and those who stood back. A question to the audience about our experience of the practice reminded both myself and the Hindu academic sitting next to me of our own feelings on being subject to it. I also recollect that having friends in the police force muted by own resentment!
Leading on from is the role that parents, and a connection with the local community due to to participation in scouts or churches, played in keeping young people out of trouble.
The courage of Camila Batmanghelidjh in reminding us that young people are the most mistrusted group in society, after politicians and journalists, and yet they are also the group who suffers most as a group through poverty, abuse and violent crime.
The determination of some business leaders to enter into local partnerships to provide mentoring and most importantly jobs. An example being Maurice Ostro, who created the Fayre Share Foundation.
Much much more, including the positive role that the arts, youth groups, schools etc can have in transforming lives, alongside religious groups, to rescue people from a position of fury driven materialism.
And finally, at the Wandsworth Council Meeting, there was a note of rare harmony when the decision of the council to spend up to £100 million over the next couple of decades in an attempt to renew some of the worst estates in the borough. Those concrete jungles that for a few years in the 1960′s held the promise of paradise for people escaping terrible housing elsewhere. Discussions about how are just beginning but there will be a genuine attempt to include the insights of people living in the estates in the process and engage the other community groups and business.
As someone at the conference on Monday put it, ‘ the best antidote to a rioting is a job.’