A volunteer church worker is critically ill in hospital after being stabbed at a church event aimed at keeping teenagers away from crime.
The 41-year-old was stabbed repeatedly when he confronted a gang of rowdy youths outside a meeting for young Christians in Deptford, south east London.
A 16-year-old boy who stepped in to help him was treated for less serious stab injuries.
The incident happened on Wednesday night at the Albany Theatre where a church group had organised the youth anti-crime event.
Police had previously been called at 6.45pm because a large group of youths was causing trouble, but they quickly dispersed.
However, the violence flared at 9.15pm when the church volunteer and the teenager who tried to save him were stabbed.
Chief executive of the Albany Theatre, Gavin Barlow, said: “The staff brought the guy in and called the emergency services.
“By all accounts he had been stabbed a few times – in the back and once in the front.
“There was a quite a lot of blood, but he was conscious when he came in.”
A police source said the man’s injuries were “life threatening”.
The teenager was treated and discharged from hospital.
A witness who asked to remain anonymous said: “I could hear my neighbours screaming ‘They are going to kill him’. I called the police and looked out of my window.
“There was a gang of youths and I knew something wasn’t right. I saw lots of them fighting and then this little boy came running along so fast saying, ‘I juked him.'” (Street slang for stabbing.)
A knife was recovered from the scene and police have appealed for witnesses to contact them.
A 16-year-old boy has been arrested and questioned on suspicion of attempted murder.
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “Churches and church ministers are visible elements of many communities, often situated in deprived areas and actively involved in many local projects.
“They do their work because they are motivated by Christian love and compassion. But their visibility and their contact with social problems can sometimes expose churches and church workers to risk of crime and violence.”
Some 12% of clergy have been violently attacked, according to one academic study. An initiative linked to ecclesiastical insurance groups has warned ministers to avoid wearing their dog collars when alone because wearing one may increase the risk of violent attack.
In September last year the Archbishop of York spoke of community-based church work and said the church “does not drive in to places of strife in the morning and leave before the lights go down.”