Hunger for justice in 2007, says Archbishop of Canterbury

By staff writers
31 Dec 2006

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said that we need to feel the same hunger for justice that ended the slave trade if the world is to be changed for the better.

Speaking in his New Year message, broadcast on BBC Television in the UK on New Year’s Eve and repeated on New Year’s Day, he drew on the example of William Wilberforce to urge people to act to change the world.

He declared: “Jesus talks about being hungry and thirsty for righteousness, for justice. And if we hear that in the way it’s surely meant, we have to conclude that he means that we should feel there’s something missing in us, something taken away from us, when another person, near or far away, has to face need and suffering. We get to be ourselves only when we wake up to them and their needs.”

The message was filmed in Holy Trinity Church in Clapham, and the Arndale Shopping centre in Wandsworth, South London and also featured footage shot during his visit to World Food projects in Southern Sudan. The reformers, he said regarded the slave trade as making the whole of humanity less than human.

“People like William Wilberforce and Henry Thornton felt they were made less human than they should be by the appalling injustice of the slave trade. They felt a hunger for justice – a sense of being spiritually impoverished - 'undernourished' because of slavery," said Dr Williams, spiritual head of the world's 77 million Anglicans.

People, he added, may feel overwhelmed or even bored by constant appeals, but change could only come if people were moved to act: “When we look at the familiar images of other people’s suffering, do we feel a void inside ourselves, a yearning for something different and a conviction that it needn’t be like this? That’s where change begins. And it’s one of the differences that faith can make; faith in God and in people."

He continued: "It’s worth remembering this year those who struggled to do away with the slave trade. If we lived in a society that tolerated slavery now, wouldn’t we feel soiled and diminished by it? Wouldn’t we feel hungry for something different? So what are the things today that make us feel the same?”

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