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Archbishop speaks with students about reconciliation

Tuesday 10th March 2015

Archbishop Justin Welby visits CofE secondary school in south London to speak about the Christian understanding of resolving conflict.

The Archbishop of Canterbury visited a Church of England secondary school in south London this morning to speak with students about reconciliation.

Archbishop Justin Welby met with a group of 20 students at St Saviour and St Olave’s Church of England School in Southwark.

He shared stories from his experience of peace-making and reconciliation in war zones, and answered their questions about solving conflict in their own lives and in the wider world.

Earlier he addressed the school’s morning assembly on the topic of reconciliation, and prayed for and blessed the students.

The Archbishop, who has made reconciliation a priority for his ministry, was joined at the school by the local MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Simon Hughes, and the Dean of Southwark Cathedral, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn.

St Saviour's and St Olave's is a small comprehensive school for girls aged 11-18. The school admits students from other faiths, as well as from the Church of England and other Christian denominations.

Many students are from lone-parent or low-income families, and the proportion eligible for free school meals is over twice the national average. The majority are from minority ethnic backgrounds, with many of African heritage. Around 50 different languages are spoken across the school.

Jesus is ‘always faithful’

Speaking at morning assembly, the Archbishop spoke about different types of conflict, from disputes between school friends, to conflicts at home, to violent conflicts and civil wars overseas.

Sharing stories from his personal experience, he told of how he had seen Jesus begin to heal deep and bitter divisions between communities caught up in civil war in Central Africa, Nigeria and South Sudan. 

He said: “The journey of reconciliation is a long, stony, hard road. But the good news that we have as Christians, that I believe Jesus tells us, is that when we say to him, ‘Help me be reconciled with you, and reconciled to my enemies,’ Jesus gives us the strength to change our lives and he changes the world in which we live.

"He is always faithful to a prayer for reconciliation. There is always hope because of Jesus.”

Ending the assembly, the Archibshop invited the students to share a period of silence to reflect on situations where they are worried about conflict, and to ask Jesus to place a desire for reconciliation in the hearts of those involved. He then concluded with a prayer and a blessing for the students.

After the assembly the Archbishop met with a group of 20 students between 11 and 18 who have a particular interest in reconciliation, Muslim-Christian relations and Nigeria.

He spoke with the students about forgiveness and reconciliation in many different contexts, answering questions ranging from how to resolve arguments between friends, to the ongoing work of reconciliation in post-Apartheid South Africa.

“Reconciliation is not about everyone agreeing,” he said. “We may disagree – but let’s disagree lovingly.

“Jesus said love one another – love your neighbour and love your enemy. As far as I can tell there’s nobody left out of that. So we can disagree well and listen to each other and learn from each other.”




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