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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 December 2005, 19:58 GMT
Archbishop reflects on disasters
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams

The major disasters and tragedies of 2005 underline the fact that human suffering affects everyone, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In his New Year speech, Dr Rowan Williams urged everyone to help others to feel less alone.

"The challenge for us is to close the gap...to be there alongside the lonely and suffering," he said.

Dr Williams delivered his message while visiting the 999 Club, a drop-in centre in Deptford, south-east London.

"When disasters and tragedies come on us thick and fast - and this last year has seen so many horrors of suffering, natural and man-made - it's painful to accept that we can't just do something straight away to set it all right," he said.

"So we need to see that the one thing anyone can do is to try and close the gap, to let others know that they're not on their own."

Challenges

He added: "This time last year, there were so many anxious families waiting for news of friends and relatives in the wake of the tsunami.

"This autumn, so many Indian and Pakistani families in this country had to face the same anxiety about their relatives back in the earthquake area.

Never mind the success, simply act and speak as if people were worth taking seriously.
Dr Rowan Williams
"Communications make the gap grow narrower in some ways.

"The challenge for us is to close the gap in our awareness and our readiness to be there alongside the lonely and suffering."

He referred to the centre, which offers support to a wide range of people, including drugs abusers, the homeless and the sick and elderly, to illustrate the challenges people face around the world.

"Those who work here will tell you that the point isn't to solve the problems but chiefly to say to everyone who comes through the door that they don't have to face them alone.

"They have realised that at times the most we can do for each other is to say, 'I can't promise to keep you safe, but I'll do all I can to make sure that there's someone with you in the worst moments'."

Dr Williams added that part of the Christmas message "is not that God solves all our problems at a single stroke, but that through Jesus he is completely alongside us".

"We still have to look for the big solutions, the long-term aid and support, the problem-solving plans.

"But let's start with what anyone can do, anywhere; never mind the success, simply act and speak as if people were worth taking seriously."


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