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29 September 2010

Boris blesses the peacemakers as Christians win London Peace Awards

Boris blesses the peacemakers as Christians win London Peace Awards

From engaging with gang members to protecting the vulnerable, three Christian community action leaders were honoured for their work at the recent London Peace Awards hosted by Mayor Boris Johnson.

The awards were held at City Hall to mark the London Week of Peace (19th - 26th September). The Mayor honored Londoners of all ages, cultures and backgrounds who have demonstrated a commitment to creating peace, cohesion and positivity in the capital.

Mayor Johnson presented theLondoner's Peace Award (the Mayor's Award) - for the individual who has made the most outstanding contribution to their community - toPatrick Regan. Patrick is the founder and director of XLP, a charity that for the past 14 years has been working with young people and families in some of the most diverse and challenging settings of inner city London.  XLP engages with gang members, police and politicians to fight poverty, support education and serve hundreds of young people.

"I feel very honoured to receive this award and still feel very determined to continue to see change in our urban communities," Patrick said. "For this to happen the church has to engage more not only in prayer, important as that is, but also in community action creating alternatives for young people that are born out of the unique understanding churches should have of their communities. "

Other awards went to Wilson Chowdhry, founder of the Redbridge Neighbourhood Watch Association (RNWA) which acts as an interface between communities, ASBO and Police Teams in Redbrige; and Michael Smith who heads up Word 4 Weapons, an organisation that places knife bins in key places where people turn in their weapons and have the choice to pick up a Bible instead. To date almost 800 knives have been binned as part of this scheme. (Read more about Word 4 Weapons.)

Through the RNWA, Wilson has initiated over 19 Redbridge Neighbourhood Watches and secured funding for £5,000 worth of crime prevention devices that have been cascade to Police and Neighbourhood Watch coordinators for distribution to vulnerable people.  "As a Christian I have always understood the Samaritan role that Christ expects of us," he said. "This work is undertaken to serve God's purpose and I give him the glory for my recent award. I hope it will spur on others to get involved in the voluntary sector."

The London Week of Peace and the Peace Awards marked their tenth anniversary this year. The London Week of Peace, which began in Haringey in 2001 and has grown to incorporate all 33 London boroughs, was set up by the Peace Alliance with the aim of organizing initiatives which increase community cohesion, reduce crime and raise awareness of community safety issues.

Mayor Johnson said: "The initiatives which are championed by the Week of Peace help cut crime, build bridges between different faiths and cultivate a feeling of solidarity. I am proud to be involved in this exemplary event and I thoroughly recommend all Londoner's get involved in the voluntary work it inspires.'

Rev Nims Obunge, Chief Executive of the Peace Alliance, said: "In times of economic hardship, it is ever so important that we encourage and celebrate those who give themselves selflessly to create a better society. We all have something no matter how small that we can give back to improve where we live, work or play."