London

As England heads into what is hopefully the aftermath phase of this week’s riots, the rhetoric has ramped up on what started it all in the first place. It’s been fascinating to watch how quickly the debate has become polarised as politicians, columnists, and community representatives retreat to their respective corners. 

"The fact is that there is no simple answer to what happened in London and elsewhere around the country; no single, easily attributable reason which explains what led to the rampage which has shocked the world. And no single solution which will ensure it doesn’t happen again."

Yet surely more level heads must prevail. The fact is that there is no simple answer to what happened in London and elsewhere around the country; no single, easily attributable reason which explains what led to the rampage which has shocked the world. And no single solution which will ensure it doesn’t happen again.

It would be foolish to ignore the role base human desires like greed, hatred and, yes, an overblown sense of entitlement have played in what has taken place. Those who took part in the orgy of violence and looting at some point made a decision to do so – there are many, many more people living in the same communities – youth included – who choose not to take part.

It’s equally foolish to say that deprivation, disadvantagement and the gap between rich and poor have not played some part in creating the simmering tensions which overflowed onto the streets of many cities – no matter how hard that may be to hear right now.

The response – of the government and of the community - must take all the factors into account and must, as one columnist in London wrote this week, take on an approach which includes both a stick and a carrot. 

Locking up and dealing with offenders is, of course, the first priority as is ensuring police have adequate powers and resources to tackle such riots when they break out.  And it needs to be done properly.

This is a chance for the UK to show the world – including countries like Iran, which helpfully offered to send in human rights observers this week – how a “civilised” nation should respond to such civil unrest – through the proper apprehension of those involved and a proper processing through the courts. It’s worth noting that a core value of civilised societies is that police and those in authority are always accountable for their actions, regardless of the circumstances in which they are acting.

Another part of the equation in dealing with the aftermath of the riots is to address some of the background issues. More emphasis must be put on providing services to reach out to disaffected youth and on tackling the causes of poverty, disadvantage and disconnection among people – particularly the young - living on the fringe’s of society.  

As Christians, we are compelled to argue for this as part of any response to the events of this week. It’s right up there with caring for the victims of the riots and praying for all those involved (Christ’s love does not just extend to those who suffered at the hands of the rioters but, yes, the rioters themselves, no matter how much we may struggle with that).

Identifying, as Prime Minister David Cameron did, that there are elements in Britain’s society are “not just broken but, frankly, sick” is one thing. Doing something proactive to effectively address this sickness is a far greater challenge.

Refusing to consider all the issues will serve no purpose in the days ahead. Any response must address all the issues involved.