Archbishop issues open letter to party leaders

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has issued an open letter to political parties, urging them not to exploit people's fears in their election campaigns.

Dr Williams warned that although "familiar anxieties", such as terrorism, asylum and immigration, might make headlines, politicians should instead focus on "offering long-term solutions to deep-rooted challenges".

In the letter, the Archbishop stated: "I don't for a minute dispute the evil of modern terrorism or the need to combat it vigorously; but the problem with all the areas I mentioned is that fear makes us look first for defences – and for reactive, damage-limited solutions. And the difficulty then is that such solutions can put deeper interests, rights and needs, individual and collective, at considerable risk."

Dr Williams urged politicians to focus on areas such as the environment, international development and the arms trade, youth and family policy and criminal justice reform.

The letter stated: "There are things that really should make us tremble – rootlessness and alienation among some of our urban youth, the degradation of the environment, the downward spin into chaos and violence of large parts of the poorer world. And these simply don't lend themselves to defensive and short-term solutions."

The Archbishop called for action to be taken to "halt and reverse" the "collective lack of international responsibility about the environment".

He also said that "irresponsible international economic policies and priorities" needed to be addressed, warning that the arms trade and the use of child soldiers reinforced the "instability that feeds violence in poorer nations".

Commenting on crime, Dr Williams said that more effort should be invested in investigating "restorative justice", through "first class education and rehabilitation facilities throughout the prison service". He said: "Building more prisons is no answer."

The Archbishop also attributed the crime problem to a growing number of "severely emotional undernourished and culturally alienated" young people. He said: "The climate of chronic family instability, sexual chaos and exploitation, drug abuse and educational disadvantage is a lethal cocktail." He said that more public support for stable families and marriage, as well as public investment in skilled, properly resourced youth work was required.

The Archbishop concluded: "I'm a Christian, who believes that the world is to be cherished, the innocent protected and human dignity preserved. Sooner or later, injustice anywhere corrupts and kills a whole community. Ignore the needs or the dignity of another and you strike at your own life and dignity in the long run."


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