[Tuesday 18th June 2.00pm in Luton Mall and then at Luton Town Hall. Details here]
As residents of Luton, and as members of the Christian community, in partnership with our friends of other faiths or no faith, we are deeply concerned about the escalating cycle of violence and deprivation which especially affects the young people of our town and our nation. We want to continue in our commitment to community peacemaking. Through working with young people, key practitioners, charities, local services, and faith communities, we want our growing town to become a safer and more nurturing place for all its residents and visitors. As Luton grows and changes, we do not want the most vulnerable to be forgotten.
As a part of this we are launching #BeatingKnives on the 18th of June. We are already meeting with young people and others affected by these issues across Luton, to hear what they have to say, and creating a sculpture and short film as a creative response. ‘Turning swords into ploughshares’ is a key metaphor for peacemaking in the Jewish and Christian traditions. With the support of Bedfordshire Police, we will be taking knives from amnesty bins and literally transforming them into a symbol of life and peace. We are planning to unveil this and our short film as part of a peace vigil on the 18th in the Town Centre, standing with our friends and neighbours from across Luton’s diverse communities, of all faiths and none, who are committed to peacemaking. On the day we will also be hosting Shane Claiborne, a long-serving peacemaker from the ‘Red Letter Christians’ movement who has done similar work in the U.S. to tackle gun violence, including re-forging donated guns into garden tools.
After this our hope is to share our film and sculpture at schools and youth gatherings around the town in collaboration with local youth and education services. This will include time for response and reflection from the young people, and the potential for them to create further artistic responses which could be exhibited in the future. Our hope is to provoke young people’s imaginations of a hope-filled and peaceful future.
While we believe that those who commit acts of violence should face the full legal consequences, we recognise that young people want to see alternatives to the continued patterns of violence affecting them. This means recognising that we as a united community need to do something about the escalating cycle of violence and deprivation which affects us all. We have a shared responsibility to create safe spaces and to address these issues. #BeatingKnives means each of us taking part in creating cultures of peace across our communities. It also means seeing local community groups empowered to consider how they can be part of creating a hopeful future.
Artists have already generously given their time in creating the sculpture and film. Our hope longer term would be to secure funding to work with the young people most affected by these issues in collaboration with the outstanding local services already offering this type of support. We believe that strategic investment into youth services is absolutely key.
We are working closely with Bedfordshire Police, Safer Luton Partnership, Youthscape, Tokko, Walk To Freedom and local Churches, and welcome others to partner with us.