Addressing the 37th annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network in Swanwick, Derby, Lorraine Dinnegan, whose son Martin was stabbed to death in 2007, revealed how she felt if she did not forgive, “I’d just be left with misery and depression. I needed to just remember the nice and good things about Martin.”
Ms Dinnegan told how her parish church of St Melitus in Finsbury Park and the local police had helped her through “this terrible time.”
She recalled sitting in the Old Bailey a year later watching the trial of the boy who murdered her son. He killed him because he looked at him the wrong way.
One positive development has been the rolling out of a citizens safe havens scheme in north London. The Dinnegans learned about this scheme from the Mizens, who also lost their son Jimmy in similarly tragic circumstances in south London. “They’d set up a safe havens scheme, whereby those willing to help, like shops, put up a sticker in their window – they would then provide a safe haven,” said Ms Dinnegan.
St Melitus Church working with the police managed to set up havens in 45 shops. “The police were grateful that people in the community were standing up for something good,” said Ms Dinnegan, who has spoken in schools about knife crime and done six workshops with the police. Ms Dinnegan won the London Citizens “leader of the year award” in 2013.
Sister of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit Maire Hayes told of how faith groups are working together in Luton to bring harmony in the local community.
Sister Maire is based in Luton, a town of 200,000 people that has been the focus of media attention over recent years. Sister Maire recalled the controversy when members of the Anglian regiment marched through the two and there were protests about the soldiers actions in Basra. The right wing English Defence League resulted from the protests. More recently the right wing group Britain First descended on the town in June, creating fear in the Muslim community.
Sister Maire told how despite these type of incursions Luton is a town where the people of different faiths pull together. She told of an annual peace walk and sporting events, when the different faiths came together. Also how the different faiths placed flowers in remembranceof the murdered soldier Lee Rigby.
In another action, after a rabbi was harassed, members of the Muslim community walked with him to the synagogue for 18 months.
Sister Maire pointed out that despite the tensions, often stoked by people coming from outside, there were no troubles in Luton at the time of the riots across the country in 2011. “We strive to build community cohesion, working to empower Luton’s faith and cultural communities,” said Sister Maire.
Fiona Mwashita, a Progressio regional manager in Zimbabwe, told of work to empower women, making sure they know their rights and get the support they need.