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01 May 2009

Born for such a time as this

Born for such a time as this

In the wake of horrible violence, one mother has drawn on her faith to help others in a remarkable way. She tells her story to Hazel Southam...

Patsy McKie is standing on a footpath in the Hulme district of Manchester. It was here, a decade ago, that her 20-year-old son Dorrie was shot and killed. It was a random attack. Dorrie was sitting in a car with a friend, when they saw some other young men coming out of the subway.

"His friend said that they didn't look right," Patsy says. "He told my son that they should get out of the car and run. My son said, 'Why do I have to do that? I don't know them. Why do I have to?'"

In a decision that was to cost him his life, Dorrie was persuaded to leave the safety of the car. The two young men fled up the footpath. Dorrie was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the chest.

If my son hadn't died, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing

Ten years on Patsy has used her grief and her faith to help found Mothers Against Violence, a Manchester-based lobby group that met with former Prime Minister Tony Blair and is now advising with the Government on gun and knife crime legislation.

"What helped me deal with my own grief is that it is the will of God," Patsy says. "I see it as the will and plan of God in bringing me to the place I am meant to be. One of the things that I have learned is that my son never belonged to me. As a mother, you are just the vehicle for helping them come into the world, like Mary with Jesus. You have to let them go.

"Nobody's ever been caught for my son's murder. Justice for me would be if the young man came to me and said, 'I killed your son.' I wouldn't hand him into the police; justice comes from God. I want him to know my God and saviour."

A wider community

Patsy came from a strong churchgoing background and has clung to her faith over the last decade. But she says Dorrie's murder also challenged the way that she lived her life.

"My community was the church," she says. "I went to home, work and church. That was my world, nowhere else. Anything that happened in the wider community, we had an answer for it. They were sinners, weak and evil."

But Dorrie's death forced her out of this closed-in world. It also mobilised her - along with other women who have been affected by crime - to set up Mothers Against Violence and to deal with the problems of the wider community, working with the police and politicians.

"I really believe that I'm doing what I was born to do," says Patsy. "I was born for such a time as this, to bring into being what is happening in these communities. For me that's enough achievement; my son died for that purpose. If he hadn't died, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. I'd be going to church and work and that's it."

I believe it's very important to be part of the political arena

She's clear that her son's death hasn't been in vain, and that Mothers Against Violence is making a difference in Hulme and in communities across the country. "We have forged the way for people to talk," she says, "especially people who are suffering in regards to gun crime and now knife crime. Mothers are now free to say what they want to say."

Since the 1980s, 47 young men have been killed in shootings in Manchester. In 1999 Mothers Against Violence was formed following four shootings in one week that left two people dead. Several mothers, including Patsy, from across South Manchester came together to try to work out how they could stop the killings and help their children to avoid being sucked into gun crime. Today, the organisation supports groups of mothers in other British cities, including Birmingham, London, Leeds, Huddersfield and Nottingham.

And it's not just reaching out to mothers. "We're now working within the community with young men who are affected by gun and knife crime," says Patsy. "Before that, there was no-one working with them specifically. We go into schools and prisons. We also work with young people and children, so we've affected their lives as well. We're working with the Home Office, going to round table meetings, changing policies. People have written to us and said how much we have affected them."

Having an influence

Patsy says it's vital that Christians are out in the wider community and working with politicians to change society for the better. "I do believe it is very important to be part of that political arena," she says. "If you're not you can't influence policies."

Ten years after Dorrie's murder, Patsy continues to try to raise the profile of crimes such as this and to find ways of preventing other young people from being killed. On 23 August, she is forging plans for the Million Mothers March to draw attention to the issue. She's hoping that women from across the UK and the world will take part in local marches in their area. And she's even written to Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton about it.

By taking part in this kind of event, and by working in communities and with government officials, she's hoping that women like her won't have to walk down a footpath to see the place where their son was shot dead.

For more information visit: mothersagainstviolence.org.uk

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