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12 August 2011

Rioting and restoring

Rioting and restoring

It's not only the Kaiser Chiefs who predicted a riot. It's been a topic of conversation in my circles of friends for a while. And yet, it seemed to erupt suddenly. What started as a call for clarity on the shooting of Mark Duggin became a spark for a wildfire.

Monday night, the 144-year-old House of Reeves in Croydon burned to the ground; a shop that had survived two world wars and the Great Depression went up in flames in one night. The riots in Hackney caused millions of pounds of damage in Pembury. Tuesday, Manchester experienced "one of the worst days the city has ever seen". Wednesday, three men died in Birmingham while protecting their property. Thursday, Parliament was recalled.

The reckless behaviour fuelled by greed without a sense of responsibility to the community, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, actually reminded me of the banking crises. Albeit different social layers and different sums, both the financial crises and the riots displayed similar human characteristics. Earlier this year Barclays' chief executive Bob Diamond told the Treasury Select Committee that the period of remorse and apology for banks was over. While the harshest of public spending cuts were about to bite and people were losing their livelihoods, the bankers moved on: bonuses and all.

The loss of a sense of responsibility for the public good is expressed in many ways. Yet each of these dysfunctions highlight that society is a complex network of mutuality. We are actually in this together."Tied in a single garment of destiny", as Martin Luther King Jr. would say. And so, reckless behaviour comes with huge price tags on both a personal and a communal level.

The broom has to sweep the streets, the boardrooms and beyond.Living in a city that was hit hard, a night of madness nearly makes you think that the decades of praying and building were 'burned up' in a night. And while not only the fires but also shining expressions of community action and prayers were lighting up the sky, the imagery of restored community life at times seems light years away.

Fortunately, there are the 'ancient' scriptures. When the streets and public squares were filled with misery, the prophets' visions for restored community life lit up the world as they knew it. And they still do. Zechariah, Joel, Isaiah… they help us to lament and glimpse again the hopefor rebuilding the ruins and raising up the age-old foundations.

The young are meant to have dreams beyond a new pair of trainers. The old are meant to live in sound communities. Resources are meant to serve the whole community. The prophets offer an alternative vision for the future. They point to personal responsibility andremind us of the price tag: spendingourselveson behalf of others. Raising the aspirations, unlocking the creativity and engaging people in their own redemption has everything to dowith listening and giving the precious gift of time

Isaiah actually uses the Hebrew word for 'soul', our whole persona (Isaiah 58:10). In whatever capacity - banker, community leader, teacher, police officer, journalist, shop owner, academic, pastor, pensioner or parent  - may we be called 'Repairers of Broken Walls, Restorers of Streets with Dwellings'.

May the Lord guide you always, refresh you in a scorched land and strengthen your frame. 

Marijke Hoek