Unconditional Love!

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The Bulletin Newspaper
Gary Leibbrandt from the Secunda reformed Church with Pastor Engel and his team

Unconditional love was the core message of Pastor Craven Engel when he delivered his sermon at the Secunda Reformed Church on Sunday.
Pastor Engel and his team visited Secunda over the past weekend to bring awareness about the work done in the Cape flats areas of Cape Town. The areas are under tremendous pressure from gang violence, substance abuse and general moral decay.
Craven speaks with a tremendous passion for his work, his people and the people he serves. Throughout the interview, he managed to bring the humorous side into this very tragic situation. The way that they interact with the gangs and their responses sometimes come through as funny but he stressed the very severity of the situation to the Bulletin.
During his sermon, he spoke about “mirror neurons” and used a very simple comparison. “People reflect on themselves and others through mirrors,” he said, “we stand up in the morning and the first mirror is your partner, then the bathroom mirror etc.” Then Craven said what the problem is with drugs. “Drugs switches off your mirror neurons and the drug user (or substance abuser) cannot see the pain that he or she is causing!”
When asked by Doctor Anton Knoetze of the Secunda Reformed Church how to switch it on again Pastor Engel replied: “with unconditional love!” He went on to say that parents should also take responsibility for their children. “We can help with programs but the parents must take responsibility,” said Craven.
One of the main reasons for inviting Craven and his team to come to Secunda is the steady increase in drugs and drug abuse. Secunda’s drug users have not resorted to the levels of violence that is so prevalent in the Cape Flats area yet but as one of his support team said: “with drugs comes violence.”
The Bulletin has reported on a number of drug cases, most recently the bag of cocaine found behind one of our primary schools. The courts have also seen a steady increase in the use of Naope, especially in the township areas. Dealers sometimes even include school children.
Craven’s model is based on international standards and they bench-marked with Chicago. “Chicago is a small hellhole on its own,” he said.
The problem with gangs and their related violence is that there is always the need to retaliate. And this retaliation is what brings all this sorrow. If someone is shot or stabbed there will always be problems with retaliation. And this is where Pastor Engel and his CeaseFire project is so very effective. He and his team operate from the First Community Resource Centre, which houses counseling services, job-placement services, a drug restoration centre and a safe house.
The success of this program is based on the fact that the “interrupters”, as they are called, are all ex-drug users, gangsters and convicts. Craven introduces each member of the team to all the gangs and gets them to accept them as members of his team. “The gangs have a tremendous respect for faith-based ministries,” Craven said.
They start with the following steps:
Detect and interrupt conflicts: Interrupters respond immediately to a conflict to disrupt the conflict. If a shot is fired, they can pinpoint the location within seconds and respond to disrupt the conflict. The idea is to mediate ongoing conflicts, prevent gang retaliation and keep conflicts “cool”.
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Identify and treat hi-risk individuals: Like a disease, violence has to be transferred from one carrier to another. Therefore, “high-risk individuals” are the gang members or “transporters” of crimes. CeaseFire uses Violence Interrupters (themselves former transporters) to identify and “quarantine” carriers before they contaminate others.
Change social norms: The aim is to change the community perception by sensitising them to the fact that violence is not normal. For many Hanover Park residents fear has become a part of everyday life. The aim? To create a new norm where people can walk the streets without fear.
This highly successful program has brought a lot of change in the lives of people in the Cape Flats. When asked about the reduction in violence Craven responded that the decrease has been 43% according to their calculation but needs to be verified scientifically. “One death is a death too many,” said Craven. Their success rate in rehabilitating abusers is far higher than the norm throughout the country.
One of the main stumbling blocks is funds. They have been funded for the past five years from the City of Cape town but it is not a certainty. Craven said that his interrupters are mostly volunteers at the moment as well as some of the other staff. His staff compliment is currently 32.
Craven says “I can’t stop. As one of the gangsters said to me, I didn’t come into your life, you chose to come into my life. You have to help me!”
Unconditional love makes you enter that gangster’s life. Unconditional Love!

Identify and treat hi-risk individuals: Like a disease, violence has to be transferred from one carrier to another. Therefore, “high-risk individuals” are the gang members or “transporters” of crimes. CeaseFire uses Violence Interrupters (themselves former transporters) to identify and “quarantine” carriers before they contaminate others.
Change social norms: The aim is to change the community perception by sensitising them to the fact that violence is not normal. For many Hanover Park residents fear has become a part of everyday life. The aim? To create a new norm where people can walk the streets without fear.
This highly successful program has brought a lot of change in the lives of people in the Cape Flats. When asked about the reduction in violence Craven responded that the decrease has been 43% according to their calculation but needs to be verified scientifically. “One death is a death too many,” said Craven. Their success rate in rehabilitating abusers is far higher than the norm throughout the country.
One of the main stumbling blocks is funds. They have been funded for the past five years from the City of Cape town but it is not a certainty. Craven said that his interrupters are mostly volunteers at the moment as well as some of the other staff. His staff compliment is currently 32.
Craven says “I can’t stop. As one of the gangsters said to me, I didn’t come into your life, you chose to come into my life. You have to help me!”
Unconditional love makes you enter that gangster’s life. Unconditional Love!

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