Archbishop warns against hostility to young people


Dr Williams said people should resolve to help young people in the new year

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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'

Start Quote

What a tragedy we so often allow to happen”

End Quote Dr Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury

"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."


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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  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    As a voluntary youth leader for nearly 30 years I warm to Rowans words. Our children are all valuable and can so easily take on the behaviour and values of those with whom they are in contact.

    It is imperative that we look after our children directly or indirectly, and strengthen the loving family values that harbour the stability that children so desperately need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    As a child of the 1950's,I for one am rather tired of pandering to the youth of today.
    We had nothing but our own devises to occupy us whereas to-days youth have so much yet are still bored.
    We never felt the need to riot but what we did have was self respect,something sadly missing from many of to-days young people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    The Archbishops speech as reported had no religous preaching in it just common sense.
    Many writers have twisted it to fit their own philosophies. I do voluntary work with teenage boys and they are very receptive to kindness. Many have very disruptive homelives and just need some stability.
    I agree with others the culture of celebrity has a lot to answer for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    if he is so concerned about the youth, how about he supports the causes that can help them,
    1. the occupy movement is about changing the system, so its fairer for all
    2. goverment and business see the youth as a commodity.
    if the church wants to be proactive it can start to openly and activitly support the people its cares about this includes marching with them and not evicting them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    There are many feral youth carrying knives and living lives of drug fueled crime. What is to be done? They need a sense of discipline. A dress code for the adult world, a suit, shirt & tie. National service and if there is no work then they should learn how to march, which costs nothing and instills a co-operative attitude many poorly parented youth lack.


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