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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Pause for Thought on Terry Wogan, BBC Radio 2

Thursday 20th December 2007

Every Child is Precious - the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, speaks about children and homelessness.

We sing quite a bit about 'Tidings of comfort and joy' at this time of year. But it would be a pity if we felt Christmas ought to be a time when we turned our faces away from uncomfortable things in our society. Surely it ought to be a time when we summon up courage to confront a few issues – simply because it's a time when we are more conscious than ever of the good things that have been given to us, material good things to celebrate with, and also, if you're a Christian, the biggest gift of all, the birth of Jesus.

But I mention this because I hope people read in the news this week about the recent survey showing we have 130,000 homeless children in the UK. Now, all right, this doesn't mean that there are 130,000 children literally on the streets every night – though there are enough youngsters sleeping rough to cause us some concern. The Children's Society found children as young as 8 who've run away and been on the streets for two weeks, and they estimate that, on top of the 130,000 homeless, there are 100,000 children run away from home every year. But a lot of the problem is about children who don't have the security of a proper home – their families are in temporary accommodation, because they've been evicted from social housing or they're in trouble over immigration regulations and so on.

And in the last few months, there's been a rising tide of concern about what our society is doing to its children in all kinds of ways, and I'm really glad to see this level of attention given to the problem. But it does mean that we ought to be asking, with any and every aspect of social policy and law, 'What exactly is the impact of this on children?' Because if we have a situation where children are deprived of the opportunity of living in a secure home, or where they live in prison-like conditions, as in some detention centres, there's something wrong.

So, one way of marking Christmas just might be to ask around a bit about homelessness in your area and specially about homeless children and young people. The Christmas story is about a child born away from a proper home, whose family end up as refugees. And that child was literally the most precious thing in the world. But every child is precious, we all know that. Se we can start thinking how we can raise other people's awareness and do something to help, perhaps by supporting Shelter or the Runaway Helpline or Childline.

So I hope everyone will have a wonderfully happy Christmas – but let it stir us up to make a few others happy too.

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