Young people democracy & social action

The Archbishop believes that young people are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today.

Speaking at headteachers conferences about the work of his Youth Trust, the Archbishop spoke of how social action is important to young people.

The Archbishop said: "We must not make the mistake of thinking that because times are difficult for young people that they do not want to help change this world. The Independent Think-Tank Demos revealed that 91% of young people said they would like to get involved in at least one type of social action. In order for this to happen we need to give each young person a meaningful opportunity to engage with their community and the Youth Trust believe that every young person can be the change that we need to see in our society".

In January 2016, the Behavioural Insights Team produced a report, entitled Evaluating Youth Social Action, which explored the question ‘Does participating in Social Action Boost the Skills Young People Need to Succeed in Adult Life?’ Its findings concluded that ‘youth social action has a positive impact on building the skills its participants need for life and work’ and that it ‘consistently improved young people’s levels of empathy and community involvement. Particular programmes were also impressive in increasing students’ co-operation and levels of grit.’

The Youth Trust has a number of school case studies setting out how young leaders are developing social action and character and how they are continuing to grow in leadership skills. Find out more about the Youth Trust's regional case studies 

It is important to encourage young people, but also listen to what they have to say. Young people should be given the opportunity to play a key role within local communities and wider society.

Archbishop John Sentamu

Voter apathy & encouraging participation

In 2017,  the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote a Pastoral Letter to the Parishes and Chaplaincies of the Church of England ahead of the 2017 General Election. The letter recognised the inherent danger in the current situation where people are disengaging from politics, arguing that restoring faith in both politicians and the political process requires a new politics that engages at both a deeper more local level within a wider, broader vision for the country as a whole.

Previously, the Archbishop held a Forum at Bishopthorpe Palace in York in the lead up to the General Election in 2010, for young people to apply their Christian beliefs to political issues and draw up their own list of priorities to send to the new Prime Minister.  

Addressing those gathered at the Forum about voter apathy specifically, the Archbishop said: 'If anyone says, "all parties are the same" or "I can't be bothered", they will never be able to complain about the outcome of the election. In Iraq and Afghanistan, voters have risked their lives to join long queues at the polling booths. In the South African election of 1994, when every adult was given the right to vote, they lined up for miles to use it. In our own country more than a century ago, Suffragettes were imprisoned for campaigning for the same right.'

What the Irish politician John Philpot Curran said in the 18th century is so fitting for today's world: "It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

The Archbishop wrote about the importance of voting and voting apathy in the Yorkshire Post - see news archive.