LONDON (Reuters) - England’s most senior cleric gave his first reaction on Thursday to riots across the country, saying the government’s stated priority of building stronger communities was now a matter of urgency.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said the violence would “intensify the cycle of deprivation and vulnerability” in Britain.
“The government has insisted on the priority of creating stronger, better-resourced local communities. This priority is now a matter of extreme urgency,” he wrote in comments emailed to Reuters.
“We need to see initiatives that will address anxieties and provide some hope of long-term stability in community services, especially for the young.”
Williams generated front-page headlines earlier this year with an outspoken attack on government policies, but had not spoken publicly about the riots that erupted in England on Saturday.
“The tragedy of the events of recent days is that those who will pay the heaviest price are those who most need stability and encouragement in local communities,” Williams wrote.
“In no imaginable sense does the violence we have seen help anyone; those who have been involved have achieved nothing except to intensify the cycle of deprivation and vulnerability.”
Williams provoked a public spat with Prime Minister David Cameron in June when he criticized the government in a newspaper article.
In an editorial for the left-leaning News Statesman magazine headlined “The government needs to know how afraid people are,” Williams wrote at length about public concern over government plans to cut spending and shrink the state.
“With remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted,” he wrote at the time.
“The uncomfortable truth is that, while grass-roots initiatives and local mutualism are to be found flourishing in a great many places, they have been weakened by several decades of cultural fragmentation,” he added, in words that have been echoed by several politicians and commentators as they looked for explanations for this week’s riots.
At the time, Cameron said he “profoundly disagreed” with many of the Archbishop’s views.
Some 72 percent of Britain’s population -- or 41 million people -- described themselves as Christian in the 2001 census, the latest available census data. The Church of England represents the largest of that group, but church attendance is low.
The Church of England estimates that one million people take part in one of its services each Sunday.
Reporting by Jodie Ginsberg; Editing by Myra MacDonald