The million-dollar question is why do young people turn to gangs and crime instead of academia or resourceful endeavours. Does the system have a part; is it bad influence within the society, is it as a result of insecurity or is the illusive and imaginary world that they are living in?

These questions need urgent answers and they should come from across the board; government, society, parents and families, big brothers and influential people within communities, the school system and sporting/ recreational facilities. Stabbing incidents
and crimes have severed while solutions not forthcoming as expected.

Knife crime started to draw media attention over a decade ago and has since been on the increase. Most victims are teenagers and young people living in designated areas identified as hotspots for violent crimes and gangs.

It could be argued that there is poverty and marginalisation with very limited choices and opportunities in some of these neighbourhood, a great number of these young people, however, actively engage themselves in search for opportunities and connections within and outside their areas; some even go in to volunteering and end up securing jobs within those organisations or companies while some hold up to creative apprenticeship. Such actions expose them to more diverse attitudes and cultures, understandings and beliefs.

The few who choose to join gangs are also young people from the same areas and share similar backgrounds. Despite the challenges that they are exposed to in their communities, they become so embroiled in gangs, violence and crime that they
circumference within where they live and their knowledge of other areas would be limited. In areas where employment is scarce and labour is poorly paid; and opportunities for higher education minimal, young people idolise older peers earning money through crime such as theft and drug trafficking and selling.

Influential older peers will start to coax them into their networks of businesses in illegal peddling of illicit substances which will start to change their ways of living in terms of material and cash possession.

To some, this is industrious and helps to pay their bills and would give them higher social status whilst to others it is a catalyst for gangs and crimes. This will change their perception and qualifies such ventures as a normal way of living as opposed to the decent standards. In becoming vanguards of their areas, they develop antagonistic views against other communities which eventually lead to post code or territorial hegemony and violence. Asa result, their networks of friends continue to be sectionalised and fettered.

Even though the rise in Knife crime has also been vaguely attributed to the aggressive style of music young people are exposed to, and less engagement of police within communities known for such acts, it could be argued that in other to impose an “all-out war” on tackling this menace, attention should not be diverted from these things.

Knife crime should not be treated only as social issues but also as public and political issues. Engaging with the police, local councils, health, education and social work professionals can make a huge impact on the young people provided that their plight is considered and a bright and fruitful future begins to loom from the horizon.

The media portrays gangs as groups of criminals void of empathy and respect, as opposed to young people looking for means to make ends meet. As a result, broader social issues are overlooked reports instead focus on factors such as a troubled home life or behavioural problems as the main causes of criminal behaviour.

This highlighted factors continue to marginalise those communities further and stereotyping and stigma become the norm.
The media should engage the youths and foster a relative atmosphere wherein positive and meaningful discourses would be triggered to avail them the opportunity to come up with balance and objective remedial analyses. The media should also practice within the spheres of social responsibility and take a leading role in helping find a solution to these problems facing the youths. Treating young people like criminals and not giving them a platform or chance to speak up, makes matters worse and rehabilitation unattainable.

There should be a thorough research which will focus on addressing the consequences of stabbings for victims and perpetrators and their families.

Rehabilitation schemes led by professionals and influential exemplars should be common and easily accessible by both victims and perpetrators; which will seek to support young people in forging ahead and building up careers and generate better opportunities for their future.

By Pa Modou Faal 

‘‘Despite the continent’s own social, economic and security challenges, African governments and people have kept borders, doors and hearts open to millions in need. Africa has set the gold standard for solidarity on refugee response”. These were the words of the United Nations Secretary- General António Guterres during the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa in last February.

At the end of 2018, there were roughly 7.4 million refugees and asylum seekers in Africa. This is 10 times more refugees than in 1969 when the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) adopted the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. Ratified by 46 of the AU’s 55 member states, the convention is one of the most widely accepted regional treaties in Africa.

It has substantially shaped African refugee policymaking and practice in four key areas:

Its broadened definition of a refugee: The definition includes factors beyond those in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention that may force people to flee, for example ‘external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order.’ This provision has informed national refugee laws of several African countries including Angola, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Refugees who have obtained protection due to the expanded definition include those fleeing South Sudan and Somalia.

Informing the prima facie approach to refugee status determination: An individual’s refugee status is recognised on the basis of a presumption of inclusion within the relevant refugee definition. This is especially relevant to Africa where conflict remains the leading driver of refugees, and the previously used individual determination method can overwhelm host states.

Creating a platform for ‘open- door policies’ of African countries: The convention is credited with laying the foundation for African states’ generosity in hosting large numbers of refugees. In 2017, African countries were among the world’s top 10 refugee hosts, including Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan. These countries are qualified to receive resources from the World Bank International Development Association as they are amongst the poorest globally. Given that most African refugees flee to neighbouring countries, the openness of these states to host is significant.

Providing a template for burden and responsibility sharing: The convention provides a template for regional burden and responsibility sharing which was considered ‘innovative for its time’. Article II (4) states that ‘where a member state finds difficulty in continuing to grant asylum to refugees, it can appeal directly to other member states and through the OAU now AU, and such other member states shall in the spirit of African solidarity and international cooperation take appropriate measures to lighten the burden of the member state granting asylum’.

 

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Mojatu Foundation and its affiliates has been providing a platform for people within the community with issues of great concern affecting them either socially, spiritually or psychologically. It is in this regard that the foundation through a thorough research, thought it befitting to extend arm of solidarity to partners within the vicinity who contribute immensely in the uplift of lives of those challenged; among them a pastor who gives hope and counselling to the people of his congregation.

Pastor Samuel Ezekiel Thomas is described as a man of exemplary character and leads his people through a spiritual journey. He has been preaching for decades at the Full Gospel Revival Centre, located on the corner of Bathley Street and Lamcote Grove in the Meadows, Nottingham; which recently celebrated fifty years of existence. Pastor Samuel doubles as a hospital chaplain on a part time basis at the Wells Road Centre and at the Highbury Hospital, and also offers counselling to some people with issues of mental health at the Thorneywood Court and other places.

We caught up with him for an interview on the a very important topic dealing with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which affects some members of the BAME community. We began by sounding his understanding of FGM and its implications and this is how it followed:

Pastor Samuel: People suffer from it dearly particularly women. It is unfortunate since it’s been done from an age when they have no understanding of the consequences neither the authority to stop it. They have to do it because it’s the parents’ decision. Sometimes the material they use is not sterilised and it leaves permanent after effects. They suffer from sickness and other infirmities. So, my job as a pastor is to stand by the people who are trying to stop it.

In fact, how did you come to know about it?

Pastor Samuel: Well I attended workshops and seminars, organised by the Mojatu Foundation; who are leading the crusade in the fight against its practice. It had been amazing and the personnel are very qualified. Discussions were centred around the harm and permanent injury that it causes to many of our children and also adults who suffered from it when they were children and continue to suffer from it. Some of them won’t get married because they cannot cope with the pain of childbirth. I was so enlightened that I immediately decided that this is an area I have to get involved in. Whether I could pull the whole church behind
it or not but as a pastor, I have to. Fortunately, when I shared it with my church, I found out they were interested as well.

Why do you think it’s important for Faith Leaders to be involved with tackling FGM?

Pastor Samuel: I think church leaders should be involved because of the injury and the ill health that it is causing to its victims. There are so many individuals who have gone through that situation and many are having difficulties having children, some with a morbid feeling that comes over them while others suffer in great pain in their sexual life. It has a permanent effect on their health and so I feel as a faith leader, the scripture is very clear and plain about health and our bodies. We should look after our bodies; we should eat the right thing and make sure that we’re not doing things that are harming the body. The body is the temple
of God and should be kept holy and so anyone who destroys the temple of God (which is our body) is affecting our creator. We should be involved in tackling FGM, so that we can have a better World for the children and adults who have to suffer from it.

What changes would you like to see?

Pastor Samuel: To change the mindset of the people who are carrying out the action. It is really destroying our young people because the equipment used could be a razor blade, not sterilised, or even a sharp knife. It is atrocious to just imagine and think of what some of these children have to go through. So, the action that I would like to see is to stop it and those who carry it out
be prosecuted. I’m sure that would bring out some fear or concern to them. They personally think that they are doing the right thing for the child, but they are sincerely wrong. It is illegal and should be denounced by the practitioners or face the consequence for doing it. That I feel will put a sense of fear in them to stop it.

Do you think it would be beneficial to introduce it into our educational system in order to introduce it to young people?

Pastor Samuel: Absolutely, our young people should be educated because there is no one more qualified and suitable (than Mojatu) to help to promote this to young people. If they are given a good knowledge of what’s happening, I’m sure it is something they will detest so much and that they will do everything they can to convince the people practicing it. I think our young people need educating, they need to know about this as they are ignorant of it. I have been to seminars where we have heard doctors and different experienced people talking about it and they need to get involved in promoting its inclusion in our school system.

Do you think there is a beneficial way to do that? What would be the way to transmit the message forward?

Pastor Samuel: By publicising/sending the information to the authorities because I don’t think they are educated enough in this field. There should be a lot of publicity materials with regards to what is happening, making it very clear and apparent so that they know. Introduce them to the idea that what we’re saying is good and we want them to come campaign, then enlighten the schools/colleges. It should be injected into the education system. There are so many things that are being introduced into our educational system with less relevance as of FGM. I think they need to get advice from people like Mojatu and people from a higher level that can help. We need to get it into our educational system. It should be one of the real subjects that are introduced.

So how can people get to know about your church?

Pastor Samuel: We send out thousands of leaflets everywhere and we hold programs on radio stations as well. People come in and we have leaflets of different organisations and what they’re doing. We have four important conferences and conventions throughout the year We have one for the ladies in January and one in May for the youth. We’re very much involved in the
community. We organise community barbecue and people come from everywhere and enjoy free dinner, a burger, a hot dog or whatever. It costs us a lot, but we don’t look at that. As a community church, we also put on a Christmas dinner, for free, where all the senior citizens can come along and have a free dinner. We can use all that to promote the church, people come to the church because they know a nice meal is available for them; some stay after the meal while others don’t. We do quite a lot to promote the church.

 

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For almost three decades, Stockholm based adventurer-philantropist Lee Neary (34) has dreamt of pitting himself against the diverse climates and formidable altitude of Mt. Kilimanjaro (5,895m), Tanazania.

Now, concluding a year of careful planning and collaboration with Inventia Travel, Lee and his girlfriend, Åsa Svensson (33), will finally make their way to East Africa in December 2019 to embark on the challenge of a life time. Commencing 20th December 2019, the swashbuckling couple will start their western ascent of Kilimajaro along the Lemosho Route – acclaimed for its high success rate and beauty. ”Sure, we’re pretty nervous, excited and under no illusion that this will be a walk in the park, so to speak. Neither of us have tried summiting a volcano before.” Lee replied when asked how preparations for the trip were going, ”I don’t think you can ever be ready enough for something like this, but we’re all in. We’ve been training avidly on our local ski slope and nature reserves around Stockholm and trust that our guide group, Homeland Adventures, will help us to rise to the challenge.”

Smile Mission are a Swedish-Ugandan based non-profit organization looking to make a progressive impact on disenfranchised
communities around sub-saharan Africa. Chairman, Duncan Njuki, states that, ”everybody has the right to smile, if you feel as
though you have nothing else – a smile can be a good start towards making change.” The Smile to the Summit event is scheduled
as a fundraising opportunity towards the organization’s latest project, Her Choice, which aims to improve standards of sanitary products and education amongst Ugandan schoolgirls. ”Things can not continue this way”, Lee stressed on the issue, ”no human on earth should be shamed or denied their right to education under any circumstance – especially as consequence of nature.”

Follow the couple’s adventure on Facebook, Instagram or the Smile Mission website.

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