LONDON – Job losses and house repossessions brought on by the financial crisis are an opportunity for people to think about where their treasure truly lies, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion said in his New Year's message.
"It's always a relief to have a bit of space after the busyness of Christmas to relax at home and mull over the past 12 months and the hopes and possibilities of the year ahead," said the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams.
However, he acknowledged, the prospect of this coming year is one that produces a lot of anxiety and insecurity for countless people.
"There are fears about disappearing savings, lost jobs, house repossessions and worse. While the headlines are often about the big figures, it's the human cost that makes it real for us," He said.
Instead of only placing value on material wealth, Williams challenged people to see their fellow human beings as their true treasure.
"Jesus said where our treasure is, that's where our hearts will be. Our hearts will be in a very bad way if they're focused only on the state of our finances. They'll be healthy if they are capable of turning outwards, looking at the real treasure that is our fellow human beings," he said.
Williams suggested that the wellbeing of the vulnerable and the better off were closely bound.
"What would our life be like if we really believed that our wealth, our treasure, was our fellow-human beings?" he posed.
"Religious faith points to a God who takes most seriously and values most extravagantly the people who often look least productive or successful – as if none of us could really be said to be doing well unless these people were secure," he said.
The archbishop stressed the need to care for children in particular.
"As we look around in our own country as well as worldwide, this should trigger some hard questions – whether we think of child soldiers in Africa or street children in Latin America, or of children in our midst here who are damaged by poverty, family instability and abuse, street violence and so much else," Williams said.
"Children need to be taken seriously, not just as tomorrow's adults but as fellow-inhabitants of the globe today, growing human beings whom we approach with respect and patience and from whom we ought to learn," he exhorted.
According to Save the Children, more than 128 million children today do not attend school and poverty takes at least one child's life every three seconds, resulting in 30,000 deaths each day. Furthermore, according to the United Nations, more than 2 million children have been killed due to war in the past decade; three times as many have been seriously injured or disabled.
There are estimated over 143 million orphans in the world today.