ENGLAND: Archbishop of York calls for global fight against debt, child poverty and racism

January 31, 2007

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, on January 31 called for a renewed effort by the British Government to combat child poverty, third world debt and racism.

Speaking at a public lecture at Oxford Brookes University in England, as part of the week-long Oxford University Mission, Sentamu identified "world debt indebtedness by the poor two-thirds world to the one-third world rich countries, the bleak perilous future for children of the world and racism" as the three modern "evils" faced nationally and globally.

"On a global scale, given our present problems, it seems to me as though we have run out of our social capital, the glue that binds us together in relationships -- down to levels that are so low that they are dangerous for the society of the world," he said. "There is a big problem that isn't going to go away, and it's likely to get worse."

Ugandan-born Sentamu was inaugurated as the 97th Archbishop of York on November 30, making him the first African to hold the position.

On the issue of debt cancellation, Sentamu said: "The global problem of international debt and economic injustice must be addressed now because they are both counter-cultural to the Christian understanding of Creation. God has created a world in which we are bound together in a common humanity in which each person has equal dignity and value.

"The vast expansion in the power and quantity of money in recent decades, the huge increase in borrowing among rich and poor alike, the damaging material and spiritual consequences to many, bear testimony to this destructive force ... Jesus demonstrated the power of the Kingdom of God by casting out demons. In his name we must courageously confront and overcome the evil of world debt indebtedness by the poor two-thirds world to the one-third world rich countries."

Sentamu also called for the Government to re-examine its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals on the issue of children's rights.

"Training children to kill has become customary in the world," he said. "There are estimated to be about 150,000 of these child-fighters in Africa alone, and at least twice that number worldwide ... there are the 'unaccompanied' children, separated from their parents, a high proportion of whom will remain orphans for the rest of their lives. How many? Nobody knows exactly, but it runs into hundreds of thousands.

"If we are going to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals by doing anything useful about the future of our children, we must start by seeing it in context."

Sentamu noted that the cancellation of international debt and the removal of an unjust economic order "would not itself remove the scourge of indebtedness in the future if the life-threatening consequences children of the world face as a result of poor education."

"The generation that will be called upon to make all things new by assisting countries that are crippled by international debt and an unjust economic order is a generation that has had virtually no schooling," he said, noting that one billion adults entered the 21st century unable to read, to write or to add. "Of 130 million children between 6 and 11 in the Two-Thirds world who are not at school, 86 million are girls -- that is two-thirds," he said. "There will, in my judgment, be no real advance in the Two-Thirds world until education enables women to be emancipated. We have been right to do all we can to cancel the burden of debt in the Two-Thirds world."

Sentamu said that the first imperative "is to ensure that debt cancellation is used to pay for health and education."

In addressing the evil of racism, Sentamu recalled the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence on April 22, 1993, and noted that there have been 68 racist murders in Britain since.

"We need to develop programs that value the ethnic diversity of this great nation," he said. "But as Maud Blair and David Gillborn argued in their article Face up to Racism, published in the Times Education Supplement on March 5, 1999: 'The education legacy of Stephen Lawrence must amount to more than the superficial multi-culturalism of the 1970s, documented by 'the 3 Ss': Saris, Samosas and Steel Bands'"

Sentamu added that cultural identity and difference must be balanced with a clear understanding of a shared humanity and membership of one world. "We need other human beings to help us be human. We are made for interdependence, for complementarity," he said. "Our commitment as communities to promote understanding and justice will create harmony longed for by all. Multi-ethnic harmony isn't the absence of conflict between different ethnic groups in the United Kingdom."

"When there is justice, the paradox is that something altogether more creative is produced than simply the absence of discrimination, disadvantage and conflict," he added. "People are set free to make their own distinctive contribution to our common life in community. The result is harmony, as diverse notes come together to produce a powerful and living melodious sound, not otherwise possible by any single note: be it black or white! When color, culture and ethnic origin are truly shared all are enriched."