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Home > Home Articles > Features > Reactions to the Bristol riots

Reactions to the Bristol riots

Bristol Riots 2011

Many theories have been posited about the underlying causes of the riots in England, including in Bristol - from moral decay to excessive consumerism. See the BBC News website here for a full article.

There have been several gatherings of Christians for prayer over the last few evenings. On Tuesday 9th about 70 gathered at Elim@Bristol on Jamaica Street, just down the road from some disturbances the previous night. After the meeting, Stokes Croft was quiet, with a couple of large police vans, but no more disturbances that night.

Elim pastor Simon Foster led the meeting, using Ephesians 6 as his passage, emphasising that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. He also noted that a root cause of the riots is fatherlessness (see verses 1 to 4) and also a participant shared about the sense of injustice and exclusion felt by “have-nots” against “haves” in a society where mammon and consumerism are idols (see verses 5 to 9).

On Thursday 11th over 50 Christians gathered to pray at the water-tower on Durdham Down, at a meeting led by Paul Thompson, who co-ordinates Bristol Prayer Network. Paul had also spoken on BBC Radio Bristol about the riots. His pointers for prayer follow:

One of the aims of the Prayer Network is to facilitate prayer during times of national need. If you would like more information on our work, or would like to be kept informed, please e-mail Paul on

Riots Prayer Topics

  • Other Cities This is a nationwide problem. Begin by praying for our brothers/sisters in London, Birmingham, Manchester, etc.

  • There is fear and uncertainty - pray as they rebuild both buildings and trust. Pray for the church to be active in their communities, reflecting both the love and righteousness of God in their areas. We all need a Saviour.

  • Repentance for ourselves. Let’s not just point a finger of judgement without looking at our own lives, with perhaps greed playing a part in the church as well.

  • We have all been part of creating the current society and it’s all too easy to blame someone/thing else.

  • Pray for our police force in the front line. Pray they will act fairly but firmly; also pray for their protection.

  • Pray for our politicians and national/local leaders. They are looking for answers themselves. Pray for them to recognise the part morality plays. Befriend, support and pray for your local MP.
  • Pray for Christian MPs and those Christians who are able to influence Parliament.

  • Pray for those who have lost businesses or homes. Pray for them to experience some Christian care and support.

  • Pray for those involved in the riots and looting. Some will be feeling remorse; others will want to do it again. Let’s try and reach out to any we know. Pray for church youth leaders to be relevant to the youth of their communities. Help them to respect their kids and show the love and justice of Christ.

  • The Spiritual Battle Whatever our own views our nation is under spiritual attack. Pray for the enemy's plans to be disrupted. Pray against groups who want to use the riots for their own ends, encouraging a spirit of anarchy and unrest similar to that in the Middle East so they can fill any vacuum created.

  • Financial situation. Being slightly overlooked at the moment is a dire financial situation, brought on by greed. Pray for the bankers/politicians but also for our own attitude to money/wealth and greed.

Among the tragedy of the riots, there were some good reactions from Christians (see here for great examples of community action across the country), local residents and police. For example BBC reporter Neil Bennett, who witnessed some of the disturbances, said he arrived in Gloucester Road (Stoke's Croft) about 01:30am, on Tuesday morning, 9th August. See here for his full article.

"There were bottles being thrown at police who were controlling the situation very well," he said.

"It was quite scary and lively and there were lots of bottles and bricks being thrown but the police seemed to get it under control.

"There were lots of people with masks and shirts over their faces but they largely just disappeared into the darkness as the police arrived.

"We moved on to St Pauls where we saw a car on fire. It must have only been lit a few minutes ago so we called the police and fire brigade.

"People were starting to congregate and film it on their mobile phones when the police arrived and took control.


Mr Bennett said residents in St Pauls - who described the disturbances as "wrong” - reacted to the fires in bins by moving them away from cars nearby.

Partly because of the influence of the Prayer Patrols (Peacemakers) over several years in St Pauls, it is pleasing to see incidents where the residents of St Paul's choose peace over violence.



Finally, a Prayer from Frontier Youth Trust: we need to keep praying during the riots

FYT wants to share this prayer for the young people of our nation in these troubled times….

Father we ask for peace. Not a fluffy emotional feeling … nor a comfortable compromise … nor the wellbeing of a few… but your deep peace of SHALOM for all. We are asking for justice, wholeness, wellbeing, fairness, mercy, understanding and compassion.

We pray for the victims of crime or violence and for those who have been hurt and harmed in the current troubles. We also pray against simplistic explanations of behaviour and knee jerk reactions to issues that are deep and require understanding and wisdom.

We pray for those working for peace in so many guises. We remember our brothers and sisters who are involved in youth work, Street Pastoring, StreetSpace and a host of Christian projects around the country – both within churches and on the streets. We also remember those who work for peace in ‘secular’ settings: for the police, street marshals, medics, youth workers, social workers, politicians, councillors, the fire services and perhaps especially for our media. We pray for businesses and communities - that they will find a new hope and strength as they work together to recover and regain some sense of normality.

We pray for the young people involved in rioting and ask that you will quicken conscience towards peaceful demonstration and dampen aggression, violence and crime. Strengthen community leaders, inspire compassion, ignite understanding and please let justice and mercy walk together in our thinking and actions.

We offer these prayers through your son, our Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Amen.