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Archbishop of Canterbury expands course on reconciliation to schools and church groups

by Kelly Valencia
Difference 1.png - Banner image
Lambeth Palace

This week, more than 400 young individuals congregated in the gardens of the Archbishop of Canterbury to celebrate the expansion of a course focused on reconciliation.

The initiative, known as "Difference," is an integral part of the Most Rev Justin Welby's ministry on reconciliation. Earlier this year, Archbishop Welby announced the course's expansion into secondary schools, providing resources designed to equip young people with the necessary skills to navigate differences and disagreements constructively.

Through a series of immersive sessions, participants engage in meaningful dialogue, practical exercises, and reflective activities aimed at fostering empathy, understanding, and resilience. Developed in collaboration with youth workers and education experts, the course underwent pilot testing in several churches across the country.

Addressing the attendees, Archbishop Justin emphasised the significance of community and diversity, drawing inspiration from Jesus' example of embracing all, irrespective of differences. He underscored the pivotal role of the Church as “agents of transformation in the world”, despite internal disagreements and conflicts.

"The Difference course," Archbishop Justin remarked, “ is life changing because it does what God asks. It values diversity because God made diversity. It seeks unity, not unanimity. It doesn't say you all have to think alike, it says you can be different because you are different. It's simple, and it's fun.”

“We did it with some friends a couple of years ago to see if it worked and how it was, and it was just mesmerisingly helpful. And Difference doesn’t oversimplify. The biggest mistake we can make in reconciliation is to simplify the complicated. Relationships are incredibly complicated, whether in a youth group or family, or between Israel and Palestine, or in Ukraine or in a civil war. They are incredibly complicated.”

Lambeth Palace

Activities during the event extended late into the evening, including football skill workshops conducted by the education and social inclusion charity Football Beyond Borders. Attendees were invited to contribute prayers for peace, explore materials from the Difference course, and experience an immersive "prayer labyrinth" – a walking meditation focusing on peace and reconciliation.

Archbishop Justin concluded: “This country can make two things in your lifetimes of being the most diverse country on Earth. It can be the most generous, amazing, caring, transformative, exciting place where diversity is celebrated and is a gift. Or we can turn into our little groups and miss out on what God wants for us. And it’s not my lot that are going to make that difference, it’s your lot – the young people who are here and those like them.

“Thank you for being here. It's amazing that you are. And my challenge to you is that I believe God is calling you to put Jesus at the centre of your life, to change the way this world works. That is within our grasp. Let's make it happen. Thank you.”

 

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