Islamabad: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby focused on promoting peace and harmony between different communities during his meetings with Pakistan’s president, prime minister and religious leaders.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, leader of the Church of England and Anglican Communion, is on a three-day visit to Pakistan where he engaged with religious leaders, expressed support to the Christian community and spent time praying with faith leaders in Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar.
“Pakistan has the heritage, hope, faith and resilience to be a gift to the whole world. The Church of Pakistan embodies a part of that vision: a Christian people belonging to the land and invested in nation-building” the Archbishop of Canterbury said. “Pakistan was founded on a hopeful vision of freedom of religion or belief for all. We continue to pray and praise God for all efforts towards realising that vision in this holy land.”
During his brief visit to Peshawar, he also met with the relatives of the members of the Christian community, who were killed in terror attacks. Welby assured the affected families that they are not forgotten. During a visit to All Saints Church in Peshawar, the archbishop said “It’s a community I have longed to visit for many years. I have prayed for them, wept for them and thanked God for them.”
Pakistan PM’s special representative on interfaith harmony Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi and President of Church of Pakistan Bishop Azad Marshall accompanied the archbishop. Tahir Ashrafi said that archbishop of Canterbury was a spiritual leader of Christians and ‘ambassador of peace’. The people and government of Pakistan welcome the archbishop as his visit would promote interfaith harmony in the country, he said.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed the importance of interfaith harmony and religious tolerance during his meeting with the archbishop on February 28. PM Khan reiterated his government’s resolve to protect the rights of minorities as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. The Archbishop of Canterbury said that “religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence of mankind is need of the hour.”
Welby shared Prime Minister Imran Khan’s concerns about the rising wave of Islamophobia in the West and said that the Church of England is also endeavouring to combat Islamophobia. Justin Welby recognized the Pakistan government’s commitment to religious freedom and belief. On the issue of blasphemy, he stressed that it is important that law cannot be misused, noting that some Muslims are also misusing it against Muslims.
Pakistan’s President Dr Arif Alvi emphasized the need for promoting interfaith harmony to promote peaceful co-existence among the people of different religions in his meeting with the archbishop.