THE Prince of Wales has marked the New Year by paying tribute to defenders of human rights around the world.
In a New Year message from Clarence House, he made particular reference to those standing up for freedom in places such as Afghanistan, Syria, and Myanmar — where “the threats and reality of political and religious persecution and insecurity are coupled with an increasingly dire humanitarian situation.
“In the face of such adversity, incredibly brave individuals, local communities, and international organisations are responding to great needs by providing vital assistance. I pray for peaceful resolutions to these conflicts and that we might all be blessed with the courage to support those in need, wherever they may be.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered his televised message from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. He spoke of a climate crisis in which hundreds of millions were already suffering the impacts of the rapidly warming planet: extreme weather, droughts, and famines, and conflict intensified by competition for natural resources.
“People of every background are campaigning and working for justice,” he said. “Important steps were taken at the COP-26 summit. World leaders recognise the problem. Now they must agree and implement a fair solution for everyone.”
The Archbishop reflected: “When we plant a seed, we don’t see the fruit immediately. But under the surface, God is working with what we have planted. In the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I see that God turns all endings into new beginnings, and death into life.
“God invites us to be part of this story — to be people who bring hope, healing and renewal to our world. This year, let’s keep planting those seeds — let’s keep moving forward in hope. I wish you all a Happy New Year.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, used his New Year message to celebrate the success of the vaccine programme, praise the “heroic public response” to the booster campaign, and present a bright picture of the country’s economic health
“The British people have responded heroically, voluntarily, and in almost incredible numbers to the call to get vaccinated. It is precisely because of that huge national effort that we can celebrate tonight at all.” He urged those still unvaccinated to make getting the jab a New Year resolution.
The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, called for an end to vaccine hoarding and for more compassion towards refugees in a New Year message. She urged the Government “to renew its efforts and lobby others in the West to start intentionally rolling out the vaccine to the rest of the world, and not to hoard it here. . .
“One of the lessons we have learned from COVID-19 is that we will remain vulnerable to this virus until the whole world is vaccinated.”
The Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, said that the coronavirus had “changed all of our lives”. Britain had suffered more than almost any other major economy. “Too many of our loved ones have lost their lives. Too many good businesses have struggled. Too many people have lost their jobs,” he said.
Rebuilding the country after the crisis “should be inspired by the bravery and heroism of those who have been on the frontline since the start of the pandemic — our key workers, our carers, NHS workers, police officers, those who kept streets safe and our supermarkets stocked at the peak of the crisis.”
Pope Francis greeted pilgrims in St Peter’s Square at midday, after presiding at mass in the basilica. He encouraged them to “roll up their sleeves to bring peace”. Being committed to peace meant taking concrete actions, he said: “This means being attentive to the poor, working for justice, and having the courage to forgive others in order to put out the fire of hatred.”
A positive outlook was needed, both in the Church and in society, fostered by seeing the “good that unites us”. Getting depressed or complaining was “useless”. Recalling the plight of modern-day young mothers and their children fleeing conflicts and famine, or waiting in refugee camps, he said: “Like Mary, we, too, can make ourselves available to others to bring positive change in our world. If we become craftsman of fraternity, we will be able to mend the threads of a world torn apart by war and violence.”
Earlier, in his homily, the Pope had urged everyone to make greater efforts to safeguard mothers and protect women, lamenting the “terrible problem of violence again women today. To hurt a woman is to insult God, who took on our humanity from a woman.”