Archbishop of Canterbury calls for peace in New Year message

The Most Reverend Justin Welby said he had seen for himself 'the ongoing human cost of war'

The Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, delivers his New Year's message.  Photo: PA
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The Archbishop of Canterbury called for a peaceful 2024 in his New Year message and asked people to “stand with those suffering because of war and to seek to make peace”.

“Wars seem everywhere at the moment,” the Most Rev Justin Welby said during his annual start-of-the-year address.

“Wars we know about, wars forgotten,” he said, speaking from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

“I’ve seen for myself the ongoing human cost of war.

“In Ukraine I went to Bucha where evidence of atrocities was found.

“I’ve met Ukrainian refugees, most recently in Georgia and Romania: Families having to start again in a new country.

“I’ve met refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh (a territory disputed between Azerbaijan and Armenia) after they left their homes because of conflict.

“And in Jerusalem last October I sat and listened to some of those traumatised by war, Palestinian and Israeli.

“Jesus Christ tells us to stand with those suffering because of war, and to seek to make peace.”

It came after Russia launched a drone assault on Ukraine on Saturday night, hitting the capital, Kyiv, and border city Kharkiv after promising that strikes on the Russian border city of Belgorod hours earlier, which killed 24 people, would “not go unpunished”.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said on Saturday that another 165 people were killed in the previous 24 hours.

In his address, the archbishop also praised the armed forces as he said they embody the theme of King Charles’s coronation last year.

He said soldiers were at the centre of the celebrations not “just because the world marvelled at their displays of pageantry” but because they, “like many, many others in the country”, embodied service.

“Here at RAF Brize Norton, almost 6,000 service personnel are living out that oath every day, working to keep us safe and the country secure, delivering humanitarian aid following natural disasters, like the earthquake in Turkey last year, or supporting civilians in the midst of conflict in places like the Middle East,” he added.

“We’re learning more and more how the horrors and traumas of war impact service personnel, sometimes long after.

“But there are also traumas for their loved ones.

“Families across the country feel the absence of relatives and those they love who are serving their country abroad.

“We fear for those of our fellow citizens who risk their lives defending and protecting the vulnerable and ensuring security.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message will be broadcast on BBC1 and iPlayer at 12.55pm on Monday January 1.

Updated: January 01, 2024, 3:31 AM