IT HAS been shocking to see the riots and violence in London, and in some of our other cities, these last days. How heart-wrenching it must be for people whose businesses have been wrecked, or their homes and possessions destroyed. It seems so senseless, to attack the very communities that support us and give us a half-decent way of life.
So how do we react? There have been stern warnings from both police and government. Those who behave badly can expect a “robust” response. Already, hundreds have been arrested. They cannot expect much sympathy when they appear in court.
But there are some big underlying questions that need to be asked. How is it that so many young people have come to this low point? What has been going on in their minds over the last months and years to bring them down to this anti-social behaviour? Is it parenting? Is it joblessness? Is there a sense of hopelessness in our communities? Why do these youngsters feel so alienated from the rest of us?
This is our society. We’re a part of it! And we need to look long and hard at ourselves, if our way of life has this as a by-product. There is no point in handing out even the most severe punishments if, at the same time, we don’t stop and take a look at ourselves as a nation.
We’ll pray for the police and the government, and for politicians on all sides, as they try to find the right way forward. We’ll pray for community workers and others who are right there in the mix, working to build social cohesion. But there is a lesson here that applies, whether we’re thinking about the local vandal, right up to the threat of global terrorism.
Bad behaviour needs firm treatment. But there also needs to be insight into underlying causes. Solid resistance is needed to protect our citizens. But we also need to make the effort to understand the mindset of the people who act against us. Why are they so angry? What is it that has set them against us? It will take wisdom and understanding, as well as a strong hand, if we are going to be able to resolve these grave issues of our day.