We need to act in the face of need, Archbishop says in Christmas sermon

Starvation, ethnic cleansing, human trafficking and the environment at breaking point – God’s message alerts are ringing out loud and clear calling us to act in the face of need, Archbishop John has said in his first Christmas sermon as Archbishop.

Archbishop John, who was enthroned at the beginning of the month, also highlighted “monstrously” overcrowded prisons, a struggling health service, tax evasion and the “clumsily-introduced” Universal Credit system as needs which require urgent action.

Preaching at Brecon Cathedral this morning, he raised concerns about world leaders whose style is “confrontational, tribal and profoundly worrying for the security of the world”, and called instead for “open-minded conversation”.

There are solutions, he said, but they are costly and include a fairer tax regime and realistic budgeting.

“From around the world message alerts ring out loud and clear, calling the world to act in the face of need. Just a few obvious examples: in far-away places, but brought into our homes by news media, thousands upon thousands of children and adults, in places like Yemen and the Congo, die for lack of food and because of easily preventable disease, die in a world with more food than it needs, but, because of tribal conflicts, just can’t share properly; people are driven to become refugees and slaves as the victims of human traffickers, while others are simply slaughtered because of their race, religion or ethnicity; the environmental impact of so much that has been taken for granted over the years is at a breaking point, beyond which there might well be no return unless the warning signs are taken seriously.

“And here at home: homelessness stalks the streets of many of our cities; food-banks often struggle to provide; Universal credit, a seemingly good idea but so clumsily introduced, has left many families income-less for too long; the NHS, still a wonderful service, struggles to cope with the demands of an ageing population and the demands of rapidly advancing illnesses such as dementia; prisoners, in need of opportunities of rehabilitation and education, spend too long idly locked up because of staff shortages and monstrously overcrowded Victorian environments; tax evasion is practised as a dishonourable and dishonest art by some individuals and corporations who, in doing so, penalise others whilst averting their eyes and their consciences to the basic human needs and dignity of those others and society as a whole.

“And, in too many places, the tone and style of some in positions of power is confrontational, tribal and profoundly worrying for the security of the world. Where is reasoned, open-minded conversation that seeks the common good and human flourishing?”

The solutions are committed love which leads to action which in turn costs money.

“How many of the needs in our own nation and our ability to contribute to answering needs elsewhere arise because of shortage of funding, the demands of austerity and consequent pressure on budgets? Welfare, social care and social services, NHS, education, prisons, homelessness – all and more, short of funds at a time when we can still find in excess of £30 billion to the EU to fulfil our contractual obligations. I’m perplexed.

“Yet, the bottom-line is that, if we are ready not only to hear but also to act on the message, it will cost. It will cost a fairer tax regime and realistic budgeting; it will cost paying for what we want for ourselves and for others, and not pretending that cut after cut after cut will solve. That surgery doesn’t appear to be having the beneficial effects that it should.”

The Archbishop said the message of Christmas speaks to all of us.

“The need is for what Jesus says to be heard even more clearly everyone, and for hearing to be transformed in to committed action.”