- Mr Welby gave speech at Church of England National Education Conference
The Archbishop of Canterbury has slammed the ‘absence of forgiveness’ on social media in apparent swipe at cancel culture.
Justin Welby said people ended up paying for the rest of their lives for ‘stupid’ posts on social media from their younger years, and hinted at being trolled online himself.
The religious leader made the comments during a keynote speech at the Church of England National Education Conference in east London.
Mr Welby told delegates: ‘The absence of forgiveness in our world, in our country, is absolutely appalling.
‘You post something stupid when you’re 19 and you pay for it when you’re 35, and you pay for it forever.’
The head of the Church previously waded into the row on cancel culture in 2021 warning he what was a ‘huge threat’ to the future of the Church of England.
Speaking at St John at Hackney church, he also referenced recent debates in Parliament as he discussed the negative comments people could face online.
Mr Welby said: ‘Social media connects us in a way that we’ve never imagined possible but also works to drive us ever further apart.
‘All of us know – I know especially at the moment, I’m not going to go into that one, I’m not going to go into debates in Parliament – but we know at the moment what it is to be trolled, to be threatened.
‘It happens in school communities, it happens in local communities. It happens at a national and a global level.’
In 2021 he spoke to Italian newspaper Le Repubblica hitting out at those trying to expunge Britain’s history after statues of controversial figures were targeted by campaigners.
He said: ‘We can’t erase the past. It’s impossible. We have to learn from it sometimes, often, always.
‘We have to repent of it quite often. But we cannot erase it. We cannot cancel history. We cannot cancel differences of opinion.’
Mr Welby, who is a member of the House of Lords, gave an impassioned speech earlier this week on the Government’s proposed Rwanda asylum law, which he warned was ‘leading the nation down a damaging path’.
In a withering rebuke to the scheme to send asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight to the country’s capital Kigali, he accused the Government of outsourcing the UK’s ‘legal and moral responsibilities’.
Elsewhere in his conference speech, Mr Welby referred to advancements in technology.
He said artificial intelligence (AI) was something that could be of huge benefit, but warned it would not work if society continued to be so divided.
He said: ‘AI is advancing rapidly and is a reality in our daily lives. It’s not a threat. It is potentially a massive beneficial change.
‘But it can’t work in a society that hates each other. It can’t work, because it will then only be used to deepen hatreds. In a society that looks out for each other, it can be utterly transformative.’
The conference, with the theme of Growing Faith and Sustaining Hope, saw initiatives launched around resources for schools which aim to equip students ‘to cross divides, disagree well and grow flourishing school communities’.
Mr Welby said the question of how society shaped and educated young people ‘could not be more urgent and more essential, more fundamental to our whole future’.