Gathering at St Pancras Church Hall last Wednesday (17 July), I was one of many church leaders meeting to consider the issues around why young black British boys are being radicalised.
The conference lamented that the Church, including the black majority churches in the UK, have failed young black men.
The informative event tried to discuss issues that perhaps the government will not really want to address regarding the two boys suspected of murdering Lee Rigby on 22 May. The two boys in question are both of Nigerian background and parentage, but born in this country. They were also of Christian background before converting to Islam.
Richard Reddie, who has written a book about why many young black men of Christian background have converted to Islam, told the gathering that many of the boys he met felt that Christianity with a white blue eyed or fair Jesus gave them no sense of resonating with black identity. Reddie explained that many of these boys appear to have found an identity in Islam which they couldn’t find in Eurocentric Christianity.
The masculinity factor may also be problematic. It appears that our churches have been feminised to the extent that many of our young boys find their camaraderie elsewhere, such as gangs, terrorist groups and so on.
We heard that the Church in Britain will have to purge itself of institutional racism that still so pervades our structures, governance and practice if we are to move forward. If this can be achieved at local church level it will help to create alternate spaces for young black boys and help them develop a sense of identity and value.
It was suggested that the Church look into its Sunday School teaching curriculum which most of the time does not address issues facing young people. Our children and young people’s ministry (Sunday school) must speak to issues such as identity, race, ethnicity and culture.
Interfaith dialogue was also highlighted as essential in order to work together to tackle extremism. Muslims and Christians will have to put aside their theological differences in order to save our young people from being radicalised by terrorist groups which form a minority among the 1.8 billion Muslim population.
It was excellent to hear from experts on these subjects but also practical ways local churches can respond and tackle these issues. Let’s get on with it!