Faith-based approaches to violence reduction

27th June 2023 | From our team

The Clewer Initiative

This is a unique role that the West Midlands VRP has pioneered but which could provide a blueprint for other Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) and partnership organisations across the country. The Clewer Initiative spoke to Fred to find out more about his job:

What did you do prior to this role at the VRP?

My first job, after studying Geography at university, was as an intern and research assistant to the Bishop of Coventry. This consisted of a number of different elements including being a lay chaplain, supporting the Bishop’s work in Parliament, and facilitating local community engagement with churches and other faith groups.

It was during my time working for the Bishop that I attended an event that would change the trajectory of my life. In December 2018, the Bishop presided at the funeral, in Coventry Cathedral, of a 16-year-old boy who had been murdered in Coventry. Some 2,000 people attended the funeral and I saw first-hand the devastating human cost of youth violence. No longer could I just read about youth violence in the newspaper and take no further action, I felt compelled to respond. I’m a Christian and reflecting on the funeral I felt God speak to me about the dire need for greater peace and reconciliation, not only in faraway parts of the world, but on the streets of my own city and the wider West Midlands.

Responding to this need, I assisted the Bishop in organising a conference for faith leaders to mark the visit of the Knife Angel statue to Coventry. I was also tasked with establishing a working group of church representatives who either worked with young people or who had experience supporting those affected by serious youth violence. We also began a pilot inter-faith youth project, funded by the West Midlands VRP, in which a church and neighbouring Sikh gurdwara worked together to create a space where young people could be safe after school, when they are most vulnerable to becoming a victim of violence.

I was therefore excited when, in September 2020, the role of Community Navigator for Coventry became available at the VRP. My role has since evolved into a regional Faith & Communities Navigator position.

Fred Kratt 2

What is the focus of the role?

A key objective of my role is to engage with faith communities and help them consider how they can play a part in preventing youth violence. To achieve this, we have formed a multi-faith and community-led network of around 400 members, called the Faith Alliance (FA). The FA exists to help equip, enable and empower communities of all faiths and none across the West Midlands to further understand and prevent serious youth violence. The Faith Alliance brings together diverse faith-based approaches to violence reduction with the public health approach, and is the first network of its kind across the country.

What have you done so far?

For the last two years, our focus has been on building strong foundations for the Faith Alliance, including growing an inter-connected community of faith activists and sharing best practice. We have done this by hosting face-to-face meetings and online webinars. Our most recent series of webinars, called "Faith &", explored how faith-based approaches to the prevention of serious youth violence in the West Midlands complement the VRP’s other workstreams and projects. A member of the team from The Clewer Initiative spoke at the “Faith & Preventing Exploitation” webinar in early June and last year, Caroline Virgo, the director of The Clewer Initiative, spoke at our national “Faith and Violence Reduction” webinar.

One of our other major projects has been the development of a Toolkit for Faith Communities. This is an 86-page resource which was co-produced with members of the Faith Alliance network. It was launched at the Faith Alliance Summit in Coventry Cathedral last summer and then taken on a roadshow of workshops across the West Midlands. It examines the issue of youth violence, its root causes, public health approaches to violence reduction, faith-based approaches including theological reflections from Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish perspectives, recommendations for action and best practice case studies.

With these foundations in place, we now feel ready to make a more significant impact on the ground. We are currently co-designing our three-year strategy which will be launched in November 2023 during Inter-Faith Week. We want everything we do to be community-led and we are currently trying to engage as many people of faith in the West Midlands as possible to help shape our strategy.

Toolkit Cover

What would be an example of the sort of action you want to encourage?

Youth violence affects all communities, of any faith and none, and everyone is responsible for keeping young people safe. The Faith Alliance network consists of many diverse and pioneering faith leaders and organisations who are setting a pattern of good practice for others to follow.

The Revd Dr Carver L Anderson is a minister in the New Testament Church of God and is also a co-founder of Bringing Hope, a Birmingham-based charity that aims to support individuals and families impacted by crime and serious violence. Carver is also one of the Co-Chairs of the Faith Alliance and has studied extensively issues surrounding youth crime and how faith communities in a UK context can make a difference. The Commission on Gangs and Violence report, published in 2017 and authored by Carver, recommended that faith groups were an ‘untapped component’ in the work to tackle violence. Two years later, in 2019, the Faith Alliance was born.

Carver Anderson 2

Green Lane Masjid (GLM) in Birmingham is another great example, whose CEO Kamran Hussain, is our other Faith Alliance Co-Chair. GLM is one of the biggest mosques in Europe and runs a lot of youthwork. We are working closely with the team at the mosque as they pioneer new youth initiatives, aiming to reach up to 1,000 young people per week. The mosque recognises the responsibility and opportunity it has to instil positive values in local young people and help other faith groups to establish spaces for young people that are safe and open to all.


Many local council-run youth clubs have closed over the years and faith groups are one of the only remaining community-based establishments with assets to create youth safe spaces. In light of this, Thrive Together Birmingham is working with Christian youth workers across Birmingham to develop a network of open access youth clubs which are safe spaces for any young people, not necessarily just those who attend church. We are supporting Thrive to increase the number of Safe Spaces for Young People and share best practice with others across the region.

In Smethwick, members of the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Christian communities have formed a group called Faithful Friends. They have become genuine friends and enjoy meeting together regularly to learn about each other’s faiths and discuss issues arising in their town. When community tensions arose in Sept 2022, they were able to speak, as a united group of faith leaders, to the people who were acting violently outside a Hindu Temple, and help diffuse the situation. This is the sort of collaboration, both regionally and locally, that we are longing to build across the West Midlands – strengthening community cohesion, pooling resources and building safer communities together.

Faithful friends

What is a VRP?

There are 21 Violence Reduction Units or Partnerships across the UK. The West Midlands VRP is overseen by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster. The West Midlands is one of only two VRUs to create a workstream dedicated to exploring the role of faith communities. This decision seemed like a no-brainer to us in the West Midlands as the region is hugely diverse and faith communities have always played a key role in the social landscape, providing many services for the public. We know that no single community is affected by youth violence – it touches everyone – and we’ve learnt that when we work together we can make a much bigger impact.

We are excited about inspiring a national conversation around faith and violence reduction, sharing best practice with other VRUs around the country and encouraging a partnership approach.

How does your work relate to modern slavery and the work of The Clewer Initiative?

There is significant overlap between serious youth violence and other forms of violence and exploitation. For example, we know that young people who have experienced or witnessed domestic abuse are at increased risk of becoming involved in violence themselves. We also know that young people caught up in forms of criminal exploitation (such as county lines), and who carry weapons, are vulnerable to becoming victims or even perpetrators of violence against other young people. We also know that young people trapped in modern slavery and trafficking, both girls and boys, are also likely to be victims of sexual and physical violence.

The Clewer Initiative has been involved with our work at the VRP from the beginning. Our approaches are very similar – we are both seeking to raise awareness, provide training and equip communities to work together to build resilience and cohesion so that exploitation and serious crime can’t get a foothold. The Clewer Initiative sees the potential to harness the Church for good and use its position to fight exploitation. It also knows the importance of working in partnership with other faith and community groups, as well as statutory partners.

What can people outside of the West Midlands do if they want to follow in your footsteps?

A good question to start with is “what is going on in my area already?” Find out about all the faith-based organisations doing work to reduce violence in your town, city or region. Next, think about the leaders and activists you can bring together and how you can connect them with statutory partners locally. Finally, do reach out to us, we are always happy to visit or share our experience in the West Midlands, so please get in touch if we can help you in any way!

You can contact the West Midlands Violence Reduction Partnership at

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