Top UK church leader to push for Article 25 on India visit
Visiting at the invitation of the United Churches of North and South India, Welby, 63, will be accompanied by his wife and will travel to in Kottayam, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Medak, Jabalpur, Kolkata and Amritsar from August 31 to September 10.Updated: Jul 30, 2019 23:37 IST
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and a leading figure in the British establishment, will seek to encourage Indian leaders to affirm and implement Article 25 of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion during his forthcoming 10-day visit to the country.
Visiting at the invitation of the United Churches of North and South India, Welby, 63, will be accompanied by his wife and will travel to in Kottayam, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Medak, Jabalpur, Kolkata and Amritsar from August 31 to September 10.
Church of England leaders on Tuesday said he will travel to India from Sri Lanka, where he will express “solidarity” with Christians who were targeted in a series of bombings during Easter, which killed over 250 people.
Welby’s visit comes in the backdrop of a report earlier this month by the bishop of Truro commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that listed alleged attacks against Christians in India.
“He is not going as a political leader, but as a church leader. He will be visiting local Christians and will be listening to their experiences. One of the things that the bishop of Truro’s reports signaled is that there are areas across the world where there are very variable experiences of Christian minorities”, said Richard Sudworth, the archbishop’s advisor of Inter-religious affairs.
“The archbishop will be going to listen and see what the situation is for those Christian communities. What we are encouraged by is that the Indian Constitution article 25 does give freedom of religion and belief and that is something we would be hoping to affirm and hear about as we travel around the country”, he added.
There are no plans to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but Sudworth said if the archbishop had the opportunity, “there will be things he would want to share”, but added that the church leader would not want to “lecture another country”.
“It is the responsibility of all leaders – political, religious – to affirm and implement what is already there in the Constitution, certainly that would be an encouragement offered”.
Besides interaction with leaders of other religions, a key engagement will be a visit to the Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, where Sudworth said the archbishop will offer a “very full statement”.
“You can expect a fulsome and very transparent account of what happened with the moral implications of a Christian leader. It is something we regard with real seriousness as a moment of recognising some of the sins of our history on order to move forward with goodwill and mutual flourishing”, he added.
William Adam, the archbishop’s advisor on ecumenical affairs, said the visit has three themes: praying with local Christians, pastoral and pilgrimage. He noted that the visit will begin in Kerala, which he called the “cradle of Indian Christianity”.
India has a long and distinguished Christian history, going back as early as the first century when Saint Thomas is said to have travelled to Kerala.
First Published: Jul 30, 2019 23:11 IST