2017 Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message


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2017

For his thoughts on the year ahead, the Most Reverend Justin Welby is in Coventry. He visits a centre for refugees, where he reflects on the themes of forgiveness and unity.


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'Recently, I stood in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral,

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'which was bombed on November 14th 1940.

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'On the remains of the wall behind the altar

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'are written the words "Father forgive",

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'echoing the words that Jesus prayed as his enemies crucified him.'

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I mean, it's such a prophetic thing, isn't it?

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The day after the bombing, the provost of the cathedral,

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an extraordinary man

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called Dick Howard, made a commitment not to revenge,

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but to seek forgiveness

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and reconciliation.

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On Christmas Day that year, Provost Howard preached a sermon

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that was broadcast across the Empire on the BBC.

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In it, he called for a new and more Christ-like world after the war.

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I started life as a clergyman here in Coventry.

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I was ordained in the new cathedral, which was built alongside the ruins.

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I never imagined I'd work here, but for five years I helped lead

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Coventry's Global Ministry of Reconciliation,

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which grew out of Dick Howard's vision

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and now has 200 Partners for Peace around the world.

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Coventry's always been a place that has caught

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my imagination and my passion.

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The story of this city says so much that is true

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about Britain at its best, about our courage, our standing up to tyranny,

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how we stand alongside the suffering and defeated,

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how we stand for human dignity and hope.

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There's a sort of sorrow in the statue which I find very moving.

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It says something vitally important about our generosity,

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how we've embraced the idea of reconciliation

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so that our wartime enemies are now friends.

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Thanks to our creative, innovative spirit,

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this vibrant and diverse city is also a hugely welcoming place.

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-Sabir.

-Archbishop, welcome.

-How nice to see you after so long.

-Yes...

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'I met Sabir Zazai many years ago, and I was delighted

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'to have an opportunity to visit the centre for refugees he now runs.'

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That was signed by the people of Coventry,

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and people even tried to write messages in Arabic as well.

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That's absolutely profound. It's just lovely...

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'He came as a refugee from Afghanistan in 1999,

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'and his sheer courage and ability are extraordinary.

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'He's now a key figure in the future of this city.

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'There are people like Sabir all over the country'

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and they are a blessing to our way of life.

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They're embracing all that's good,

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'and that doesn't just enrich their lives.

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'It enriches and deepens ours, too.'

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-From Somalia.

-Oh, from Somalia?

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You're very welcome. It's wonderful to see you.

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Last year, we made a decision that will profoundly affect

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the future of our country,

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a decision made democratically by the people.

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The EU referendum was a tough campaign, and it has left divisions.

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But I know that if we look at our roots,

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our history and our culture in the Christian tradition,

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'if we reach back into what is best in this country, we will find

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'a path towards reconciling the differences that have divided us.'

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-You're the teacher?

-Yeah. I'm trying to teach.

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-It's difficult learning English.

-Yeah.

-But it's really important.

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If we're welcoming to those in need,

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if we're generous in giving, if we take hold of our new future

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with determination and courage, then we will flourish.

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'Living well together despite our differences,

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'offering hospitality to the stranger and those in exile,

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'with unshakeable hope for the future -

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'these are the gifts, the commands'

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and the promises of Jesus Christ.

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They're also the foundations of our best shared values,

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traditions and practices in Britain.

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They make us the country we can be -

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a gift and source of confidence to this troubled world

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in which we live not only for ourselves,

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but as a beacon of hope, a city set on a hill.

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I wish you a happy and hope-filled New Year.

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For his thoughts on the year ahead, the Most Reverend Justin Welby is in Coventry. He visits the grounds of the cathedral destroyed by bombs in 1940 and the new cathedral next door, as well as a centre for refugees, where he reflects on the themes of forgiveness and unity.