Reflections on the radicalisation of black British youth

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!



About israelolofinjana

Rev Israel Oluwole Olofinjana is an ordained and accredited Baptist minister and has pastored Crofton Park Baptist Church (2007-2011) and Catford Community Church (2011-2013). He is currently the pastor of Woolwich Central Baptist Church, a multicultural church in south east London. He is Nigerian coming from a Pentecostal background. He holds a BA (Hons) in Religious Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and MTh from Carolina University of Theology (CUT). Israel is the editor of “Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the Global South in the UK” and author of “Reverse in Ministry and Missions: Africans in the Dark Continent of Europe” and “20 Pentecostal Pioneers in Nigeria” He has spoken in a number of conferences regarding reverse mission and Black Majority Churches (BMCs) and has also contributed to academic journals and Christian magazines on the subject of Black Majority Churches (BMC) in Britain. He is currently co-opted as a member of the Baptist Union Council. Israel is also one of the Directors of Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World an initiative design to train and equip pastors and missionaries from the South. He is a member of the Global Connections council. When he is not preaching or writing he is playing with Lego! He is happily married to Lucy who works as an administrator and research co-ordinator for the Evangelical Alliance. She is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), earning a BA in Social Anthropology and International Development. Lucy loves baking and watching movies!
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