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‚Äôs Eve and repeated on New Year‚Äôs Day, he drew on the example of William Wilberforce to urge people to act to change the world.
He declared: ‚ÄúJesus talks about being hungry and thirsty for righteousness, for justice. And if we hear that in the way it‚Äôs surely meant, we have to conclude that he means that we should feel there‚Äôs 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.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúPeople 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 ‚Äì 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: ‚ÄúWhen we look at the familiar images of other people‚Äôs suffering, do we feel a void inside ourselves, a yearning for something different and a conviction that it needn‚Äôt be like this? That‚Äôs where change begins. And it‚Äôs one of the differences that faith can make; faith in God and in people."
He continued: "It‚Äôs 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‚Äôt we feel soiled and diminished by it? Wouldn‚Äôt we feel hungry for something different? So what are the things today that make us feel the same?‚Äù