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Archbishop - Good Childhood Report 'a clarion call' for society

Monday 2nd February 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury today warmly welcomed the launch of the Good Childhood Report, describing it as 'a clarion call' for society to listen to its children:

"Our children deserve the best we can give them, and I hope this Report will stir us to action in the wide variety of areas it touches upon. The Report shows something of the energy, the good sense and the vision of so many of our young people. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the well-being of children and young people in this country is far from being the priority it should be, and this Report spells out in carefully researched detail some of the ways in which we are failing them.  It is a clarion call for us as a society to do better. "

In an afterword to the report Dr Williams emphasises the importance of the notion of 'love' for the welfare of the child, both in the marital context, as well as love for the child itself:

"This report is not ashamed to put love at the centre of the child's needs – and the adult's too: love not as warm feeling alone, but as long-term commitment to someone else's well-being as something that matters profoundly to one's own well-being.  That sort of commitment means relativising your own sense of what you as an individual need so as to discover what might be good for you and the other; and parenthood is one of the contexts where most people learn this most lastingly if they learn it at all."

"The report rightly stresses how essential it is that couples understand that their commitment to each other is absolutely bound up with the welfare of their children; so that working to secure that commitment is part of what is owed to those children.  If we are serious about children's welfare, we need not only access to the right kind of training in parenting skills but a serious shared willingness as a society to educate young people about committed partnership, its importance and its challenges.  In plain terms, it will not serve us as a society, and it will not serve the growing generation, if we simply regard marriage as just one option in the marketplace of lifestyles." 

The Archbishop concludes with a reminder of the special value Christian teaching and theology has placed on the child not only as a gift of God but also in some important respects as the teacher of virtue, spontaneous love and receptiveness to the Word of God:

"...the basic texts of Christian faith contain some startling statements about children (even more startling two thousand years ago than now): the child is the one from whom the adult must learn about 'the Kingdom of God'; and the one who abuses or corrupts or deceives the child is destined for the harshest of judgements.  The child not only has access to the Kingdom, s/he has a privileged place in it.  This is not romantic speculation about children trailing clouds of glory, or even a celebration of childlike innocence. In its context, it seems to mean that it is the very powerlessness or vulnerability of the child that is important – important in securing their place of privilege, but also important as reminding the adult that receiving the news of the possibility of change, freedom, love, reconciliation, requires of the adult a degree of vulnerability and spontaneity that is normally overlaid by suspicion and self-defensiveness. "

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