16 April 2013 You are here:

Blood on the street!

Blood on the street!

Last night, I was deeply disturbed by the television images from Boylston Street, Boston – the chaos and mayhem caused by explosions, set off in an area where thousands were enjoying life. Athletic garb – vests and shorts and running shoes – stained, not only with perspiration, but with blood; the street where thousands were due to cross triumphantly over the finishing line after a gruelling run, gory with bleeding bodies – three of them dead, over 140 injured.

Almost ironically, the city was celebrating “Patriot’s Day” – the start of the bloody War of Independence. Ominously, it brings to mind other atrocities committed in the more recent past on or around this holiday – Waco, Oklahoma, Columbine and Virginia Tech are painful incidents from the past 20 years which left blood on the streets of the USA. As the authorities in Boston focus attention on finding out what lies behind the attack, I grieve with millions at this awful reminder of humankind’s excessive capacity for the inhuman and inhumane. 

Blood on the street!

In the past fortnight, violence has stained the streets of this Realm – again, with the blood, not of combatants in a military operation, but civilians. The vehement mass reaction to Margaret Thatcher’s passing, which spilled on to the streets and became a bloody confrontation with police, was replicated over the past weekend by even more violent clashes between football fans and the intervening police. 

Depending on the strength of your stomach, you could watch the viciousness with which countrymen – indeed, in one instance, fans of the same club – ferociously set about injuring each other… resulting in blood-letting on the football stands! (One report referred to it occurring at the national football stadium and I sensed a slight implication that the sacrilege was the venue of the atrocity, rather than the atrocity itself.) 

Farther north, it was the streets of the city centre which were bloodied as fans clashed violently with their victorious rivals and subsequently, with the police. As the causes are discussed, and blame is apportioned variously to TV-scheduling times, heaving drinking, poor policing and inactive stewards, I grieve with thousands at our capacity for mindless violence.

Blood on the street!

We know from our ministry in the cities and towns of our Territory, that blood stains our streets regularly – the gang activity and rivalry, while not always catching the headlines, is an on-going challenge to the peace and stability of entire neighbourhoods, as well as to the security and safety of young people who are caught up in this lifestyle – voluntarily or not. 

You may be surprised to know that The Salvation Army Trading Company has provided some 19 collecting banks which have been used to collect weapons – knives, syringes and guns – thereby supporting an initiative by Word 4 Weapons (see http://www.word4weapons.co.uk) to address this serious problem in the Greater London area in collaboration with the Metropolitan Police, the Christian Police Association and Street Pastors. In exchange for handing in their weapons, young people are offered a free pack which includes a Bible.  The weapons are smelted to make medals which are given to young people making a difference in communities where there is blood on the street!

We continue – quite rightly – to honour over many decades, and with great ceremony, the blood shed by our young people who fought for the Realm’s freedom, but, to quote Shakespeare’s Marc Antony standing over the bloodied corpse of the slain Julius Caesar, “what cause withholds you, then, to mourn…” – to mourn the young blood being spilt on our streets today, and to concern ourselves with the complicated underlying causes of such violence.

Blood on the street!

There is no easy, quick-fix, one-solution-fits-all answer to these difficult and disturbing problems – problems which are marked by blood on the street. But, I believe that the Christian Church’s recent Easter reflection on another blood-stained street provides the core to such solutions and provides hope that those solutions can be found.

For it was on the Via Dolorosa that the Saviour staggered with his cross, staining the street with his blood… en route to Calvary, having chosen to die himself rather than to kill others for his cause; to die for, rather than be killed by, the enemy; to shed his blood in order to open the way for peace and reconciliation… blood on that dusty Jerusalem street paved the way for reconciliation between traditionally alienated groups – Jew and Greek, male and female…

“He himself is our peace”, writes Paul in Ephesians 2:14, and describes how that peace was secured by the blood-stained cross in v16 – “…in this one body (created in himself) to reconcile both… through the cross…” 

Jesus showed it was worth dying for, surely the Church should show that it is worth living for!