Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has warned that the financial crisis could make the UK more vulnerable to political extremism and the rise of parties like the British National Party.
Dr Williams was speaking at the Christian Muslim Forum in London. He described the recent election of a BNP councillor in Kent as a “straw in the wind”.
The spiritual head of the Church of England and the 77 milion worldwide Anglican Communion said that people were feeling angry because of the financial crisis, and there was a temptation to look for scapegoats.
He declared: “We ignore at our peril the very high risk — which history should have taught us — of financial stringency leading to political extremism.”
“Anger finding its expression in xenophobia, prejudice and rivalry — all the tactics that both sociologists and psychologists remark on as the displacement of unease and fear," said Williams.
He added: “It’s no small thing that the BNP can win a seat in Sevenoaks. It’s a straw in the wind, and we have to watch the horizon very carefully.”
The Archbishop said that it was time to “dust off” Christian virtues such as prudence and temperance and “see what they mean in a contemporary context”.
He called on people of faith to recognise the world as “a gift to be stewarded... Our own will and desires don’t define what is good for everyone. We need to understand we belong to a world that’s limited and not wholly under our control.”
Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham and Financial Secretary to the Treasury, also spoke at the Forum.
He said: “Faith communities represented in this forum [stand for] generosity rather than greed, fairness, peacemaking, strength in family values — community values that underpin these things we want to achieve.”
Other speakers at the event included Community Cohesion Minister, Sadiq Khan, Alex Cobham of Christian Aid and Faizal Manjoo of the Islamic Foundation.
Also on Ekklesia: Is 'Christian nation' rhetoric aiding the far right? http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/5161