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Justice must be for all — Lord Williams

21 December 2018

Former Archbishop addresses carol service for the African Prisons Project

Andrew Philip/Tearfund

Prisoners studying in the African Prisons Project library at Luzira Prison, Kampara, in Uganda

Prisoners studying in the African Prisons Project library at Luzira Prison, Kampara, in Uganda

FOR some people, the idea that the law works for them is “remote”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams said on Monday.

During the address at the annual Christmas carol service for the African Prisons Project (APP), held at Lambeth Palace, Lord Williams said: “Law is not something somebody else enforces on you; law, true justice, is what we make together for one another’s good.

“The purpose of the APP is just that revelatory moment: law as liberation, law as the recognition of one another’s humanity, law as the vehicle and the tool of real human flourishing.”

The APP was, he said, a “community of change-makers in pursuit of equitable justice for all”, which, through its Changemaker Programme, provided “training and services for prisoners and prisoner staff to grow in legal and human-rights awareness, to learn how to support others with free legal advice, and to study the law”.

In the APP’s autumn newsletter, its founder and director general, Alexander McLean, said: “Every one of us has a role to play in ensuring access to justice is available as a right for all and not just a privilege for some. Our Changemaker Programme offers a path to justice for some of Africa’s most vulnerable.

“It isn’t an easy path to take, but we have seen the impact of prisoners’ regaining their dignity, restoring their hope, and changing their communities, one by one. They set a powerful example of rehabilitation for prison systems around the world.”

In his address, Lord Williams said: “Last year, we were remembering the anniversary of the Reformation — or, at least, the beginning of the Reformation, when Luther first nailed his colours to the mast and his theses to the door.

“Martin Luther said of his own conversion that it was the moment he realised the justice and righteousness of God are about . . . God’s unflinching determination to do the right thing by his creation. And what is the right thing? It’s love, restitution, recreation.

“Those of us that have been privileged to see and hear something of this project will know what that means: they will know something of the stories of liberation and recreation. They will know what it means for someone to discover that not only they themselves can benefit from the proper exercise of the law, they themselves can make a transformed difference for others.

“For me, as I suspect for many, one of the most moving things about this project is the way it builds people’s capacity to take part in the system and turn it to the good; people finding their own strength in very vulnerable situations, and set free to use that strength.”

He concluded by quoting Psalm 85: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.”

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