Drugs destroy lives. Addiction leaves a legacy of death, suicide, mental health, and family breakdown and it is driving a rise in organised crime. We have been researching this war – and we use that word carefully. We are very grateful for insight the Christian Police Association have given us. We believe this is a time when we need to do more contending and asking in prayer, to rescue and release. We balance the call to shift and release people and situations with the call to bless. We will look in the coming weeks at what God is doing – it is remarkable, but we need more.
The drug “trade” is big business, covering the import, production, and supply of drugs. It is a violent trade with gangs fighting for territory, and senior gang’ s members asserting their control through fear and intimidation. It is fuelling increased violence, self-harm and suicide across our prisons. Gangs control certain neighbourhoods. There is a dark spirit of greed and lawlessness behind it, controlling lives and poisoning the spiritual atmosphere.
Some years ago Steve Botham was asked to Chair a days workshop for the Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities. They have been ripped apart by drugs. Their tradition is that men chew or smoke a weed called Khat, they can spend four or five days at a time smoking. Until 2013 it was freely available, flown in regularly from Africa and on sale in shops and smoked in cafes across many UK cities. It breaks up families, the women are left to bring in the income, raise the family and manage the home. At the workshop, they produced an enormous list of the consequences of Khat smoking from manic and delusional behaviour to throat cancer, paranoia, depression, and suicide. The women were distraught and live in a culture where they are constrained from complaining. The use of Khat impacted and blighted the entire community. Just having this well-attended event was a breakthrough enabling a public discussion of the issues. This is a particular and unique community but it demonstrates the devastation drugs bring.
PROTECT OUR CHILDREN
A recent report for the Children’ s Society shows the devastating impact the drugs war has on children. Gangs in big cities are expanding their territories and income through ‘County Lines’ . This is where they sell in smaller cities and towns and to avoid detection use school children to transport and distribute drugs. What has become apparent is that children as young as seven are involved, although the normal age remains 14 – 17yrs old, it “captures” children from all backgrounds. Where this becomes insidious is that these children effectively become prisoners of the gangs. They may be asked to transport some drugs and are then robbed (by friends of the gang), the gang tells them they owe them – say £300 – and they need to work harder to pay it back. At this point, they use violence, sexual assaults and even rape to intimidate and coerce the children. The gangs use geo-tracking devices so the children are constantly monitored. This is being recognised as the fastest growing area of child slavery and we have recently seen the first prosecutions under the Human trafficking legislation. Police and Social Services are struggling to address the issue.
A VISION FOR OUR CHURCHES
Marie Reavey from the Christian Police Association has been sharing her vision with us. She describes what could happen with one person, let’ s call him Darren. Darren has a serious heroin addiction as does his partner. Imagine a situation where he decides to come off heroin and gets close support and mentoring from a church. His partner then follows him. They begin to pull their lives together and they get their children returned from social services care. Darren gets a job and starts paying taxes, he and his partner begin to pull their family back together. The impact on Police, Social Services, the NHS, the courts, etc. is significant. Marie takes her vision further – imagine that multiplied by ten, or even all the addicts in a town or neighbourhood. Go further imagine the release this gives, spiritually and socially to the entire community. Her challenge to the church is “Can we get involved in early years intervention, residential recovery and supported housing?” How can fuller collaboration and unity help us to fulfill this vision?
Spac Nation in Southwark with Pastor Tobi Adeyboyaga has a “rescued” congregation with former armed robbers, drug dealers, gang members, and ex-prisoners. He says “I’ ve got access and I am speaking to the worst of the worst – people who have done the most despicable things – and I sit down with them and we talk.” Ex-gang members and drug dealers go back onto the streets to help and hopefully disciple people. There is a huge hunger for change. They are seeing hundreds come to Christ because God’ s heart is to rescue.
- We want to see news stories which say “We are winning the war on drugs.” Give us persistence Lord.
- We pray for every child caught up in the county lines enslavement. God of rescue, set them free, God of mercy give them the support they need to turn their lives around.
- This is a war. We praise you, Jesus, that you have won the victory over sin. Thank you for the testimonies of turned around lives – we pray for more, many more.
- We pray for the drug squads that you will reveal drug hordes, drug factories, and drug import points.