Bishop launches attack on modern society

By John HowardReligious Affairs CorrespondentA BISHOP has delivered a strong attack on modern-day society and voiced his fears about the rising levels of violence and obesity.

By John Howard

Religious Affairs Correspondent

A BISHOP has delivered a strong attack on modern-day society and voiced his fears about the rising levels of violence and obesity.

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, also said most people had lost sight of the meaning of Easter, regarding it simply as "a holiday with a taste of chocolate".

Bishop Richard voiced his concerns in his traditional Easter message, which has been sent to clergy across the diocese.

In his message, the bishop wrote: "In the shops today, the signs of hope are symbolised by chocolate eggs and fluffy yellow chicks.

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"People celebrate Easter as a holiday or 'holy day' and hopefully the weather looks like spring and there are daffodils and spring bulbs which bring their own vision of new life and hope to the world.

"The question is whether there is anything more to Easter than that for today? Is it just a holiday with a taste of chocolate? It probably feels like that for most people and there's nothing wrong with that for a world which suffers from too much stress and busyness. But is that all there is to it?"

Bishop Richard warned today's society was experiencing change at an unprecedented rate and people were finding it hard to adapt.

"The most obvious evidence is the level of stress, but it may be that increasing obesity is also a sign of a disease in society," he said.

"The level of violence in a society is another indicator and in recent years we have seen a rise in intended violence on a national scale which is deeply disturbing."

Bishop Richard also voiced concerns about the passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and its controversial powers of detention, and claimed there had been an "acceptance of evidence in court of testimony obtained under torture".

He added: "We would be fools not to take the threat of terrorist incidents seriously, but the suspension of the long-established human rights which include freedom from unjust imprisonment and freedom from fear of degrading and inhuman treatment are even more serious."

The bishop concluded his message by stating his belief that Easter was more relevant today than it has ever been. "Easter shows that there is a glimmer of hope even in the darkest moments of despair and it is that which we should celebrate on this Holy Day," he said.

Responding to the bishop's message, Tony Lewis, the county council's portfolio holder for children and young people, said he was concerned to see children and young people get a good start with more exercise in schools and good school meals.

"Obesity is a social problem. One of the prices of being better off is that people drive more, eat more, eat out more. We want to give children the right habits when they are young," he said.

Joanna Spicer, a member of Suffolk Police Authority, said official figures had shown that violent crime had increased in the county.

But she added those figures included crimes such as harassment on the telephone and sending unpleasant text messages, with a relatively small amount of offences involving actual violence against an individual.

Chris Mole, the Labour MP for Ipswich, said the Government was determined to tackle violent crime and drug abuse within society.

"Whether there is a trend to violence in society is difficult to say and I would not want to rush to blame video games and movies," he added.

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