UK

Archbishop warns against hostility to young people

  • 1 January 2012
  • From the section UK
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the public not to give up on young people following the "horrific" scenes of rioting youths during the summer.

In his new year message, Dr Rowan Williams said there was a "national habit of being suspicious and hostile" toward groups of young people.

Those involved in the disturbances had been a minority, Dr Williams said.

Charities' work with youngsters showed "the gifts they can offer... when they feel safe and loved", he added.

"Quite a lot of the images we're likely to remember from the footage of the riots in the summer will be of young people out of control in the streets, walking off with looted property from shops, noisily confronting police and so on," Mr Williams said.

"It all feeds into the national habit of being suspicious and hostile when we see groups of youngsters on street corners or outside shops and bus shelters.

'Feeling dismay'

"We walk a bit more quickly and hope we can pass without some sort of confrontation.

"The events of the summer were certainly horrific. They showed us a face of our society we don't like to think about - angry, destructive, lawless."

But most young people shared the "general feeling of dismay at this behaviour", Dr Williams said in the message filmed at the Kids' Company charity in south London.

He praised such charities for providing support and role models to enable youngsters to develop.

"When you see the gifts they can offer, the energy that can be released when they feel safe and loved, you see what a tragedy we so often allow to happen," he said.

"Look at the work done by groups like the Children's Society or by the astonishing network of Kids' Company here in London, and you see what can be done to wake up that energy and let it flourish for everyone's good."

'Demonising'

Camilla Batmanghelidjh, of Kids' Company, said 99% of children were "law-abiding and positive" and only the remaining 1% were the culprits behind "a lot of disturbances".

"But these disturbances are really because of the way adults are actually treating them, and we're not facing that truth," she said.

"We're demonising these young people and not coming up with solutions for them."

Society as whole benefited from efforts to engage with young people, said Dr Williams.

"Being grown up doesn't mean forgetting about the young," he said.

"And a good new year's resolution might be to think what you can do locally to support facilities for young people, to support opportunities for counselling and learning and enjoyment in a safe environment.

"And above all, perhaps we should just be asking how we make friends with our younger fellow citizens - for the sake of our happiness as well as theirs."

The Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message will be broadcast on 1 January at 12:45 GMT on BBC One and 16:15 GMT on BBC Two.

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