Historic center of Christianity in Middle East under threat as never before says Justin Welby

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Young Kun Park)The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby holds a press conference during the 10th Assembly of the World Council of churches in Busan, South Korea on November 1, 2013.

Archbishop Justin Welby, the most senior bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion, says that Christianity has never felt as threatened as it does in its historic birthplace, the Middle East.

"It would not be over-stating matters to say that Christianity is both the numerically largest faith and the most persecuted," said Welby speaking in Abu Dhabi before a Muslim body debating integration and religious freedom.

"The historic center of the Christian Church in the Middle East has never felt so threatened, but is also under attack in countries as diverse as North Korea and Eritrea, where Christians are harassed, imprisoned, persecuted and killed."

Welby, who is the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the spiritual leader of the Church of England was addressing a senior Islamic group from the Muslim Council of Elders known as the "Council of the Wise."

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"It is fitting too that we meet in a country which has taken practical steps to enable religious minorities to meet, teach, worship and express themselves. It shows a confidence in granting freedom, and a self-confidence which is fitting and proper.

Christians have recently been on the receiving end of persecution both from militantly atheist and religiously intolerant regimes, said Welby.

"As faith communities we must step up and hold governments to account," asserted Welby. "This is a challenge for us all everywhere but none-more-so than in countries where faith communities have serious power through numerical, political or civic strength."

RIGHTS OF MUSLIMS IN THE UK

Welby said that in the United Kingdom, the Anglican church advocates for the rights of Muslims to set up schools, madrassahs and mosques across the country.

"But the increasing integration of Muslim communities within British society, in which we rejoice, is in stark contrast to the increasing marginalization of and outright hostility to Christian communities within many parts of the world, not least in significant parts of the Middle East."

The Archbishop of Canterbury also criticized the definition of British values given by Britain's education regulation body, Ofsted, as a recipe for tyranny.

He said: "In the UK we find British values, so called, defined by Ofsted as belief in democracy, in the rule of law and in mutual respect of faiths, or for those of no faith.

"This approach is good, but entirely inadequate as a foundation for a healthy society. Democracy without fundamental values around the value of the human being, and, I would say, without the understanding of God's grace and love for the humanity God created, is a recipe for majority tyranny."

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