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Archbishop - International Community too Fixed on 'Success First, Help Second'

Monday 12th March 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has told a Christian congregation in Angola that the international community can be too cautious in wanting change in struggling countries before stepping in to help.

In a sermon preached to over 2000 Anglicans in a basketball stadium in Angola's capital Luanda, he promised to speak out for them on his return. 

" ...Sometimes the international community can forget a country whose circumstances are too difficult. Sometimes it is as if wealthy countries say to poor countries, 'When you are a success, then we will help you'. One of the things that the Church must say is that the help and the love must come first, not the success. And so I will promise you today that when I return to the UK these are things I will say there. In the name of God and his Church, Christians must always say that love comes first. We cannot wait until all problems are solved until we engage and assist."

Despite the difficulties they could still bear witness in their own way; change needed to begin with what they could do:

"God has given us the strength to see the truth about ourselves; he has told us the terrible truth about our world. Unless each one of us can turn towards him, violence continues. And it continues to devour the innocent; because of that disease and poverty will continue. But the challenge is to each one of us; the challenge is to look into our hearts and change what we see. So in the life of this country as in the life of any country, the future depends on each one; it depends on the willingness of every person to let go of fear and hatred, but much more importantly it depends on faith in the God who is faithful to each one of us."

He said that God has been at work in them through their suffering and the country's troubles. The lessons learned in the Bible taught that God stayed with his people.

"I was reminded of the part that Christian martyrs and pastors had played in the days of the war of liberation, of the many who were killed for their faith and for their principles. I visited the church where Joao Goncalves had ministered. We heard again of the story of his courageous death and I was reminded ... how God had been faithful here in this country. In times of violence, injustice and unrest, God was at work through his people. And so it is the same God calling all of us today to work for that freedom that is his will, to work for the peace which will last, but this can only happen when we understand fully who this God is."

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