Anglican bishop makes Christmas call for alcohol education

  A call for drinks companies to spend as much money on educating people about sensible drinking as they do on persuading people to drink alcohol at Christmas, has been made by the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert. Speaking in a House of Lords debate on domestic violence, the Bishop stressed the role of alcohol as one of the causes of violence in the home and pointed to the drinks companies' Christmas advertising campaigns. He said: "Millions of pounds will be spent in trying to persuade us to enjoy ourselves and that that enjoyment can be associated only with alcohol. So the numbers of people getting 'wasted', 'trashed' or whatever phrase one wishes to use, will be huge. "If we could persuade the brewing industry that the amount of money spent on trying to persuade us to drink should be matched by a similar amount devoted to trying to educate young men especially about how to drink sensibly, we might get somewhere. It is reported that between five and 10 per cent of all calls to Childline mention alcohol as a serious problem." The Bishop - whose diocese covers Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and much of the London Borough of Barnet - said he spoke "as one who from time to time has drunks throwing up over my front doorstep. Bishops now live a very long way from the sweet calm of Barchester!" The Bishop of St Albans was spoke on Monday 15 December in favour of the Government's Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill, which passed its second reading in the Lords. The Bill overhauls domestic violence law and gives victims rights to support, advice and information. He also focused on the "devastating effect" on children as the "hidden victims" of violence in the home. He highlighted research showing how many thousands of children were involved in domestic violence each year. He told the Lords: "It takes little imagination to see what devastating effects witnessing violence might have upon those children. I refer to the sense of powerlessness among young boys, unable to protect their mothers from their violent fathers and stepfathers - an anger which has to be dealt with in some way and which may well result in themselves becoming violent in adolescence and adulthood. And the same sense of powerlessness among young girls which may then become internalised and gnaw away at their own self-esteem. "If in two years in one English city there were 1,100 children caught up in domestic violence, and one multiplies that figure by the number of cities in the UK, thousands of children would be seriously damaged by all that they see and hear. I concentrate on the children because they are the hidden victims whose voice is rarely heard." The Bishop also pointed to the "profound spiritual malaise" to be found within domestic violence. He said that if people were abusive or violent towards others or indeed towards themselves, it suggested that they had no concept of their or the other person's inherent worth. "It means that I do not regard myself or the other person as in any sense being made - as the Judaeo-Christian tradition would express it - in the image of God. So, I do not see myself coming from God, being surrounded by God or at death going towards God. "Therefore, many people are alienated in the profoundest way from their own inherent dignity and alienated from that worth, which in my view is conferred upon us by God as creator. That alienation is then expressed in cries of anguish." He called on the government to involve churches and other faith group in initiatives to combat domestic violence, and applauded the work that many groups are already doing. He said, "As we strive to understand the causes of violence, please let us not forget what volunteer organisations and faith communities already do to try to address those causes. "As we rightly strive to offer compassion to the victims, please can we have some joined-up thinking that recognises that words such as 'healing' and 'wholeness' have a rich and long-standing religious, spiritual and human content?" Responding to the debate for the government, Baroness Scotland said: "We welcome the engagement of the faith communities and all others who will willingly take up arms with us against this terrible ill." Source: ACN

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