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A Sense of Belonging

Gangs or God?

by Claire Law

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To consider how our human need to belong can lead to gang culture and knife crime, and how one ex-gang member turned his life around.

Preparation and materials

  • Note: this assembly considers the sensitive issue of knife crime, so it will need to be handled appropriately.

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (A Sense of Belonging) and the means to display them.

  • Have available the BBC video ‘London knife crime: “I don’t know how many people Ive stabbed”’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 1.14 minutes long and is available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-47211971

    Note: there is more detail on the story beneath the video, so scroll down for more information.

  • Optional: for excellent resources that could be used as follow-up materials for PSHE or form-time discussion, see: https://tinyurl.com/y9ocjqx9

Assembly

  1. Have Slide 1 showing as the students enter the assembly.

  2. Show Slide 2.

    Ask the students to spot the odd emoji out.

    Pause to allow time for the students to have a good look.

    Show Slide 3 to reveal the answer.

  3. Point out that it is human nature to want to fit in, to want to avoid feeling like the odd one out. Human beings are social creatures. We are designed to live in society and interact with others. Feeling like we are the odd one out or excluded from social groups is not a nice feeling.

    In the natural world, creatures that stand out or are isolated from the wider group are a target for predators. As humans, we have an inbuilt need to belong, to fit in. The way that we dress is just one way in which we might express that need.

    Show Slide 4.

  4. Some people might be tempted to go to more extreme lengths to fit in, to be part of a social group. Behaving in a certain way can be how we choose to get acceptance from others. Taken to its extreme, this could mean choosing to use violence or to carry a weapon to show that we belong to a particular group. At its heart, this behaviour often stems from a desire to fit in.

  5. That was certainly the case for Robert Bragg, a London teenager who began carrying a knife when he was 12 years old. Let’s hear a bit of his story.

    Show the first 11 seconds of the BBC video ‘London knife crime: “I don’t know how many people I’ve stabbed”’.

  6. Explain that we will hear more from Robert later.

    Robert’s experience is not unique. Official figures show that the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales last year was the highest since records began in 1946.

    Although it can be hard to gain an accurate picture of how many young people are being drawn into using violence and carrying weapons, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has been considering whether the UK needs new laws to stop social media being used to fuel knife crime.

    Some people are worried that the number of young people involved in knife crime seems to be growing, confirming anecdotal evidence that more people are carrying weapons, being drawn into gangs and being exploited by drug dealers.

  7. So, is carrying a weapon a good way to make sure that we feel the safety of ‘fitting in’, being accepted and being part of a group?

    Although carrying a knife may appear to be a logical way to protect ourselves, it actually increases our risk of being hurt. If we carry a weapon, we are more likely to:

    - be attacked or threatened by other gangs who use weapons
    - be arrested by the police
    - injure ourselves badly with our weapon
    - hurt or kill others with our weapon
    - hurt innocent people if a fight happens

  8. In Robert Bragg’s case, he sought security by belonging to a gang, but that didnt end up being his experience. Instead, he felt anxious and paranoid. Let’s listen to more of his story.

    Show the rest of the BBC video ‘London knife crime: “I don’t know how many people I’ve stabbed”’.

  9. Interestingly, Robert’s desire to find a connection, to belong, to fit in, eventually led him to cry for help. His gang lifestyle had not offered what it had promised; instead he felt scared and vulnerable. Robert had hurt many people himself, but inside, he, too, hurt badly.

    It was this feeling that prompted him to turn to God and ask for a fresh start. Now, Robert calls himself a Christian. He believes that he is part of a community, a group where he belongs. A group united by loving and being loved by God. A group who can feel sure that – no matter what their past involves – forgiveness through Jesus is freely given. Robert now works for a charity working in schools to highlight the dangers of being in a gang. Robert now belongs.

Time for reflection

Let’s take the time to reflect upon our human need to belong.

Knife crime is a sensitive topic, so we should think carefully and respectfully about how this assembly affects us.

Lets take the time to reflect slowly and thoughtfully on some questions.

Show Slide 5.

Which groups do I belong to? Do these groups help me to feel secure and at peace?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Do I make efforts to include people, to welcome people who feel alone or isolated?

Pause to allow time for thought.

How do I feel about Robert’s example of turning to God to find true belonging? Is that something Ive ever considered?

Pause to allow time for thought.

What actions do I want to take today as a result of this assembly? Do I want to speak to anyone or seek anyone’s advice? 

Pause to allow time for thought before informing the students about relevant support that is available in the school.

Prayer
Dear God,
Each one of us here has been created to be in a community, to belong.
We think with sadness of those times when we have felt left out or have excluded others.
We pray for wisdom and strength when we feel isolated to seek support and connection in ways that bring peace to ourselves and to others.
We pray for anyone who, like Robert, feels that violence is the only way to connect.
May people like him have the chance to consider the impact of their actions, and to seek a different way.
We thank you for the many charities and organizations that exist to support and help young people.
We pray today for those things that cause us to feel shame or remorse.
May we seek to say sorry and to make amends.
Thank you that you are a God of forgiveness.
Amen.

Follow-up ideas

Optional: for excellent resources that could be used as follow-up materials for PSHE or form-time discussion, see: https://tinyurl.com/y9ocjqx9

Publication date: March 2019   (Vol.21 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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