From the Communications Office of Lambeth Palace
Following the recall of the House of Lords in response to the events of recent days, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, expressed sympathy with those affected, paid tribute to police and volunteers, and called for a renewed commitment to the building of strong communities.
Reflecting on the loss of confidence in society that many had experienced, Dr Williams said:
"In the events we have seen in recent days, there is nothing to romanticise and there is nothing to condone in the behaviour that has spread across our streets. This is indeed criminality."
Noting the Prime Minister's comment that "criminality always has a context", Dr Williams called for a careful analysis of all that has taken place and for a commitment to educating our young people to be good citizens:
"Over the last two decades, many would agree that our educational philosophy at every level has been more and more dominated by an instrumentalist model; less and less concerned with a building of virtue, character and citizenship - 'civic excellence' as we might say. And a good educational system in a healthy society is one that builds character, that builds virtue.
Seeking explanations, it is worth remembering, is not the same as seeking excuses, and in an intelligent and critical society, we do seek explanations so that we may be able to respond with greater intelligence and greater generosity. My Lords, one of the most troubling features, as I think all would agree, of recent days, has been the spectacle of not only young people, but even children of school age, children as young as 7 taking part in the events we have seen. And surely, high on our priorities as we respond to these circumstances must be the question of what we are to do in terms not only of rebuilding the skills of parenting in some of our communities, but in rebuilding education itself."
Reflecting on the frustration of many young people at the betrayal of their own generation by some of their contemporaries, Dr Williams noted that:
"Communities deserve the best, and above all, let me repeat it My Lords, young people deserve the best."
Recognising the many positive acts of citizenship that have been seen among young people, local communities, churches and other faith groups, Dr Williams called for a renewal of civic identity and civic solidarity:
"My Lords, I believe that this is a moment which we must seize, a moment where there is sufficient anger at the breakdown of civic solidarity, sufficient awareness of the resources people have in helping and supporting one another, sufficient hope (in spite of everything) of what can be achieved by the governing institutions of this country, including in Your Lordship's House, to engage creatively with the possibilities that this moment gives us. And I trust, My Lords, that we shall respond with energy to that moment which could be crucial for the long-term future of our country and our society."
A full transcript of the Archbishop's speech and a link to the podcast can be found here