CHENNAI: He may be the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion and chief religious figure of the Church of England, but Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury confessed that he was amazed by the “quality of Indian secularism.” In a short speech, laced with an easy brand of humour, Welby told CSI bishops and pastors from all across the South, “The quality of Indian secularism is one of the gifts of India to the world. In Europe it (secularism) means an opposition of all faiths, but here its an openness that welcomes all religions. And that is truly remarkable,” he said, drawing applause from all the excited clergymen.
Despite his two-day visit being organised by the Church of South India, Welby steered clear of religious discourse and even appreciated the tolerant views set forth by people like the Nawab of Arcot, in that gathering.
Reflecting on the Modi administration, being ruled by the BJP and the challenges that lay ahead, he said, “Its an extraordinay result. But the fact is that a country that does not succumb to majoritism will be doubly blessed. I met the Minorities Minister two days ago in Delhi and she is a remarkable woman. I heard her ideas and if her bosses listen to her, it is encouraging,” before adding, “But it is a challenge nonetheless.”
It was evident that both Welby and his wife Caroline were enjoying the cultural panorama of India, as she was seen sporting a colourful blue-green sari, accessorised with beads et al, “Despite having wanted to (come here before) I’ve never managed a visit. One is overwhelmed by the potential of the country. It could become one of the worlds great powers over the next few decades. And there should be a spirit of generosity towards your neighbours, when the time comes,” he stated.
The Nawab of Arcot bemoaned the fact that Islam’s reputation had become almost synonymous with terror,
“I regret that the demolition of religious places, burning of books and lynching of missionaries and I believe that it reflects poorly on the education system. Islam is not a religion of terrorism. It preaches peace and terrosism and it is being misunderstood as a religion of bloodshed because of a few anti-terrorist elements,” he said.
He also hoped that much like the Archbishop’s predecessors, Welby would also honour him by visiting his ancestral seat Amir Mahal, “Two Archbishops before this have come to my house, and though time is not available now, I humbly hope that you will visit us on his next trip to India.