Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has delivered a damning indictment of the European Union and Europe’s approach to tackling radical Islam, in a shock speech at the Catholic Institute of Paris.
The clergyman characterised the Brexit vote in Britain and Donald Trump’s election in America as “a cry of dispossession and alienation”, advising the Establishment not to double down on its commitment to a failing status quo in the face of popular discontent.
“For many the response to Trump has been more Europe, by which they mean more centralism, more imposed federation, less flexibility”, he said. “Such a response is wholly inadequate for the challenges that we face as a continent.”
Welby argued that, on the contrary, a 21st century vision for Europe “must go beyond the boundaries of the European Union”, which has treated the people in countries like Greece especially poorly.
The Greeks were “urged to enter the Eurozone on essentially a false prospectus”, he railed, “and because of previous mismanagement and even corruption by an elite, the poor of an entire nation have been put effectively into involuntary bankruptcy.”
Greece, he declared, was now “the biggest debtor’s prison in European history”.
The Archbishop, who controversially intervened in EU referendum, stopped short of recanting the “European ideal”, but conceded that the project’s image had been harmed by aspects of “centralisation, corruption and bureaucracy” in European Union practice.
Going beyond the political realm and on into the social sphere, Welby also criticised the popular argument that the Islamic State “has nothing to do with Islam”.
“ISIS have an ideology, indeed a theology”, he insisted, “they believe that the world is about to end, that the Prophet will return and defeat the Western powers.”
The Archbishop also chided the anti-extremism ‘Prevent’ programme in the UK, which he seemed to regard as overly reactive and not sufficient to counter the growth of Islamism domestically. “Rather than simply seeking to prevent ‘bad’ religion we have to offer an alternative vision”.
Preceding this with an appeal for European spiritual leaders to start “feeling confident to talk about the Judeo-Christian tradition of our continent”, Welby’s speech seemed close at times to a call to arms for a robust defence of Western heritage and values.
The Archbishop could hitherto be predictably relied on to endorse all the dogmas of the Left-liberal establishment: more European integration, more immigration and a more prominent role for Islam in Britain’s public life.
While he may well revert to type soon after this speech, it is possible that the increasingly pitiless assault on Christianity in states where Islamism is in ascendance may have given him pause for thought.
So far, this month has already seen Christian television channels wiped off the airwaves in Pakistan, a ban on the celebration of Christian holidays at international schools in Saudi Arabia, and threats to the existence of ancient Syriac monastic communities in Turkey.