Peaceworks has become a prime mover is establishing a ‘Street Angels’ project in Bognor Regis, in partnership with Sussex Police, Churches Together and other key local organisations and churches. Called Arun Angels, the project works to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour through dedicated teams of volunteer ‘angels’ out on the streets every Saturday night.
Peaceworks co-ordinated Arun Peace Week in November 2008, an initiative developed in partnership with Arun District Council and now a regular annual event. The Peace Week celebrates Arun’s cultural diversity at a time of demographic pressure in the region.
Peaceworks has also helped to coordinate the Europe & Africa Restoration Partnership – an epic venture that has been running since 1999 and held conferences in the UK, Belgium, Congo, Gabon, Germany, France, Portugal, Zimbabwe and Rwanda.
To avoid the outcome being tokenistic, a steering committee was drawn together immediately, chaired by Chris Seaton of Peaceworks. The membership of this committee was formed by volunteers who had sympathy with the objective and who represented the troika of involved parties that is, European nations with a significant history in Africa, Africans from the continent, Africans currently forming a Diaspora in Europe. This process took over six years from Emmeten to the culminating event in Berlin in November 2005. To get there, preparatory conferences were held to educate and inspire churches in Belgium, England, France, Germany and Portugal and a booklet was published in four languages. The Berlin conference in 2005 was attended by 700 people and involved 20 African delegates being brought from the continent at the expense of the Europeans, accommodated and provided with gifts. The whole conference was filmed and the resulting DVD and booklet are available to order from Peaceworks.
Contact us to order a copy of the EARP booklet (free) and DVD (£5 per DVD, free postage to anywhere in the UK)
One of the key outcomes that the organising committee was looking for from Berlin was a steer from the Africans as to what should happen next. The clearest message from them could be paraphrased: ‘we would like you to bring this message of repentance, apology and desire for a new relationship to the continent of Africa itself.’ In seeking to follow this up, the EARP worked with indigenous African Christian leadership to hold events between 2006 and 2009 in Zimbabwe, Gabon, DR Congo and in Rwanda. At a conservative estimate over 15,000 people attended these events including past and present state presidents, traditional chiefs, denominational leaders and other national leaders. Each visit has involved television, radio and press coverage, partly because of the controversial nature of the messages involved.
At a gathering of the steering committee in Ashburnham, England in September 2009 a decision was taken to attempt to move the focus more intentionally towards political and economic restitution. The movement decided to retain the brand of ‘EARP/PREA’ but move its full title to Europe Africa Restoration Partnership/Partnership Restauration Européen-Africain. The committee agreed;
1. “That we will aim to grow this partnership in the context of a developing understanding of the nature of the Kingdom of God which recognises that the Kingdom of God is identified by giving money, power and dignity to the poor in body and spirit as distinct from the Worldly kingdom which is identified by taking money, power and dignity for itself.
2. That we agree to partner with and encourage those who have a heart of giving and not an attitude of taking and that some of these givers are not yet believers and some of these takers claim to be followers of the Lord.”
The aspiration is that this movement will begin to campaign and network to help Europe move faster forward in its relationships with Africa on the issues of fair and equitable trade. There is a place for non-profit activity but the focus will be development not aid, which can become paternalistic. EARP is not against charitable work but wishes to restore human dignity. Now is the time to make the right relationships with business people and others in spheres of political, education, and other developmental work.
Peaceworks can receive donations to support the EARP. If you wish to contribute to the work, please mark clearly that your gift is for this purpose.
What is Arun Angels?
Every Saturday night, teams of volunteers recruited from local churches patrol the pub, club and entertainment areas providing a listening service, practical support and help to those who are or have become vulnerable in the late night environment. The project forms a safety-net service to people who become vulnerable while enjoying a night out due to alcohol, attack, drug use or any other issue that has caused distress or the potential for physical harm. The Arun Angel volunteers offer advice, support and a reassuring presence on the streets. The aim is to provide practical support and a reassuring presence in an unconditional and non-judgmental way based on the biblical example of the Good Samaritan. The project is based on similar Street Angel and Street Pastor schemes that operate in towns and city centres throughout the UK. Some significant reductions in violent crime, disorderly behaviour and the fear of crime have been achieved in areas where such schemes operate. We hope that from the foundation of measurable success in Bognor Regis, Arun Angels will become established in other locations within the Arun district as well as extending coverage in Bognor Regis.
Who are Arun Angels?
Arun Angels are volunteers recruited from the local churches in Bognor Regis and surrounding area, using a rigorous recruitment process to ensure that they are committed to the local area, they are able to demonstrate a commitment to the core Christian values of the scheme, and they understand that there will be no opportunity to prosthletise. The volunteers are aged 18 or over, and undergo a comprehensive training programme that includes; personal safety, mediation, safeguarding, and drug and alcohol awareness. Teams of volunteers, working in co-operation with police, door staff and other agencies, patrol the streets between 9pm and 3am on Saturday nights.
Arun Peace Week has now become Arun Community Week, and is run as an annual autumn event for Bognor Regis and the surrounding areas.
Peaceworks is delighted to be involved in the planning and the content of a national conference to be held next year which will seek to improve the way churches deal with internal conflict.
Delegates from Christian churches all over England, and beyond, will gather at Coventry Cathedral to explore how conflict is handled, whether it be over national issues or local tensions and power struggles.
The ‘Faith in Conflict’ conference will be held 26-28 February 2013 in Coventry Cathedral, itself an iconic symbol of reconciliation. Keynote speakers will be Revd Canon Dr Sam Wells, current incumbent at St Martin-in-the-Fields, whose work often focuses on bringing people together in the context of fear and faith, and Revd Dr Jo Bailey Wells, who has expertise in working across the divides in churches in America in the wake of the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson.
As a member of the planning group, Alastair McKay, Executive Director of Bridge Builders, said: “This is a timely moment to consider how the Church handles conflict in its midst, and to re-establish a faithful Christian approach to engaging with the inevitable tensions that we face.”
Conference coordinator David Williams said: “The conference is designed to be highly interactive and to help the church deal with conflict in a better way.”
One of the conference sponsors is The Right Revd Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, who said: “This conference is unique in that it is designed to help the Church take the task of mediation seriously.
“The difference that can be made in parishes and the wider community by having knowledgeable and trained people on hand is simply staggering. This conference will help senior clergy and others with a responsibility for leading people to get a better working knowledge of some of the tools and techniques available.”
Another sponsor is The Right Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, who said: “The Church is not called to avoid conflict but to face it faithfully and to turn it towards God’s purposes of healing and forgiveness. I’m delighted that Faith in Conflict is taking place in Coventry, a city inspired by the Christian vision of resolution of conflict through reconciliation and the refusal to allow destructive forces to have the last word.”
The Revd Ernie Whalley, President Elect of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: “The human wreckage around us shows us how hard it is to ‘live with difference’ and flourish as communities. Sadly this includes our Christian churches. Leadership in peacemaking is essential. This conference aims to equip leaders at a deeper level to allow the insights of the Gospel to shape our thinking and to signpost our resources. I warmly commend this significant event.”
The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin, President of the Methodist Conference, said: “Christian communities of people inevitably face conflict. While conflict presents challenges for the Church, it can also become an opportunity for growth and positive change. Such transformation matters and can have lasting benefits to the Church and wider community. I therefore welcome the way that the Faith in Conflict conference will help church leaders to reflect on this.”
The conference has been organised by a group of professionals looking to assist the church. The group includes top commercial and community mediators, and is supported by Bridge Builders, the country’s leading provider of training for church leaders in handling conflict, Peaceworks, the leading mediation, reconciliation and training agency on the South Coast, as well as the Reconciliation Ministry Team at Coventry Cathedral, which has many years’ experience in serving groups working through conflict. For further information visit www.faithinconflict.com or call 024 7652 1261.