First a reader (thanks, John) and then the front page of the current Hackney Gazette have drawn my attention to the visit to Hackney by the American Christian evangelist and former gang leader Nicky Cruz on a mission to turn local youngsters away from crime. The project is called TRUCE - To Reach Urban Communities Everywhere – and has already been at work in neighbouring Waltham Forest. It involves a group of younger reformed gang members performing music on estates and encouraging kids to attend subsequent meetings to be addressed by Cruz at the Ocean music venue on 27th and 28th of this month.
Not everyone is happy about this. A Bible-led hardliner, Cruz's disapproving line on all sexual activity outside marriage has included condemning homosexuality as a perversion and a sin. The Gazette quotes lesbian and gay rights campaigners condemning the Cruz-TRUCE visit, which has the backing of Hackney Council and was instigated by Superintendent Leroy Logan of Hackney police in an attempt to reach those at risk. Logan says, "The TRUCE campaign is targeted at addressing the problems of gang and youth crime in the borough predominantly amongst young men of African and African-Caribbean origins, who have a cultural respect for Christian outreach work," adding, in the print version only, that in his Ocean appearances Cruz will be speaking only about these experiences and that, "We do not aim to discriminate against anyone in any way."
This is a tricky one. Leroy Logan is no stranger to discrimination. He was one of a number of black officers investigated by the Met a few years back, and only cleared of wrong-doing after a year of baseless aggravation. Read more about all that here. Since then Logan has demonstrated his commitment to working with local people, something I saw at first hand in the recent successful campaign to close down the Palace Pavilion nightclub, a notorious magnet for murderers and drug-dealers. From comments he made about gang culture at a meeting we both attended it was clear Logan considers the reform of wayward youths to fall within his "partnership" remit.
All this, it seems to me, is to be welcomed. So it's a pity for the Super that some elements of the Cruz crew's message are more oppressive than redemptive. Maybe Logan didn't spot this or maybe he's less aware than he might be of the connections between hatred of homosexuality - and anything else perceived as "feminine" in men - and male violence. On the other hand, western Christian evangelicals tend to see homosexuality more as either a disability or a sign of human weakness it is their caring duty to correct than as a God-given reason for beating someone up or killing them.
The gay lobby has had its say, and good for them. Leroy Logan may have learned a useful lesson. Let's hope that in the end the TRUCE visit doesn't do more harm than good.