The Archbishop of Canterbury used his Christmas sermon to call on the rich and poor alike to share in the hardships brought on by the financial crisis and cuts in public spending.
Reflecting on the mutual dependence of humans, Dr. Rowan Williams urged people not to give in to the temptation of abandoning others to suffering while securing their own safety.
“Faced with the hardship that quite clearly lies ahead for so many in the wake of the financial crisis and public spending cuts, how far are we able to sustain a living sense of loyalty to each other, a real willingness to bear the load together?” said Williams.
“How eager are we to find some spot where we feel safe from the pressures that are crippling and terrifying others?” he asked. “As has more than once been said, we can and will as a society bear hardship if we are confident that it is being fairly shared.”
The Archbishop said that people need to show commitment to their neighbors and that there is no single interest group or pressure group that could “opt out” of carrying the load.
He said confidence can only be restored if people shared in the burden of “constructive” work together.
He called upon the wealthy in particular to carry part of the load.
“That confidence isn’t in huge supply at the moment, given the massive crises of trust that have shaken us all in the last couple of years and the lasting sense that the most prosperous have yet to shoulder their load,” he said.
“If we are ready, if we are all ready, to meet the challenge represented by the language of the ‘big society,’ we may yet restore some mutual trust.”
The Archbishop spoke of his anticipation of the royal wedding next year between Prince William and Kate Middleton.
He said Christian marriage was a “sign of hope” and expressed his own hope that the royal wedding will encourage people to think about marriage.
“It would be good to think that I this coming year, we, as a society, might want to think through, carefully and imaginatively, why lifelong faithfulness and the mutual surrender of selfishness are such great gifts,” he said.
The Archbishop urged people to remember persecuted Christians around the world this Christmas, particularly those in Zimbabwe suffering beatings, illegal arrests and lockouts from their churches by authorities; Iraqi Christians facing extreme violence from extremists; and Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy.
“We may feel powerless to help; yet we should also know that people in such circumstances are strengthened simply by knowing they have not been forgotten,” he concluded.